Cardinal Dolan urges stronger effort to stop physician-assisted suicide

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller


WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chairman
of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities has called for increased
efforts and “renewed vigor” to stop legalized physician-assisted suicide after
the practice was approved by voters in Colorado and the District of Columbia
City Council.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New
York urged Catholics to join medical professionals, disability rights groups
and others “in fighting for the authentic care” of people facing terminal
illness in a statement released Nov. 21.

“The act of prescribing a fatal,
poisonous dose, moreover, undermines the very heart of medicine,” Cardinal
Dolan said. “Doctors vow to do no harm, and yet assisted suicide is the
ultimate abandonment of their patients.”

His concern comes after voters
in Colorado passed a physician-assisted suicide measure that was on the ballot
Nov. 8. The law also allows insurance companies to refuse treatment of patients
they consider terminal.

Colorado became the sixth state
in the nation with a so-called “right-to-die law,” joining
Washington, Oregon, California, Vermont and Montana.

In Washington, D.C. City Council
members in a second vote Nov. 15 approved the “Death with Dignity
Act” that permits physicians in the district to legally prescribe the
drugs to patients who have been deemed mentally competent and who have received
a terminal diagnosis of six months or less. Under the measure, third parties
are allowed to administer the drugs used in the procedure. The bill goes to
Mayor Muriel Bowser to veto it, sign it or let it become law without any action
on her part. If it becomes law, it would be subject to congressional review
before it takes affect.

Cardinal Dolan called the
district’s measure “the most expansive and dangerous so far” because it opens
“the door to even further coercion and abuse.”

“Every suicide is tragic,
whether someone is young or old, healthy or sick,” the cardinal added. “But the
legalization of doctor-assisted suicide creates two classes of people: those
whose suicides are to be prevented at any cost, and those whose suicides are
deemed a positive good.

“We remove weapons and drugs
that can cause harm to one group, while handing deadly drugs to the other,
setting up yet another kind of life-threatening discrimination,” he continued.
“This is completely unjust. Our inherent human dignity does not wane with the
onset of illness or incapacity, and so all are worthy of protection.”

Seriously ill people require
“authentic support, including doctors fully committed to their welfare and pain
management as they enter their final days,” the statement said. “Patients need
our assurance that they are not a burden — that it is a privilege to care for
them as we ourselves hope to be cared for one day. A compassionate society
devotes more attention, not less, to members facing the most vulnerable times
in their lives.”

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Editor’s Note: The U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement on assisted suicide 2011
titled “To Live Each Day with Dignity,” the full text is available online at


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