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  • Bishop Murphy Urges Education on Assisted Suicide Issues

    Bishop Murphy encourages faithful to oppose legislation promoting assisted suicide

    March 3, 2015

    Catholics in the State of New York, particularly those in our Diocese, should be very alarmed by
    movements promoting assisted suicide legislation. We must work together to educate, inform and encourage our people to engage actively in pushing back any legislation which compromises the gift of life. Read the entire letter here: Assisted Suicide Legislation

     


     

    Bishop Murphy Urges Education about Assisted Suicide Issues

    Bishop’s Blog, www.licatholic.org, January 13, 2016

    Here in New York we are facing a well financed and well organized campaign to legalize assisted suicide in our state.

    Did you know that already there is proposed legislation  in the Senate and the Assembly — S.5814/A.5261-B and S.3685/A.2129-A – that would do just that?

    It is urgent that all people of good will, particularly the leaders of the ministries and offices of our parishes, understand the issue of assisted suicide and understand the Church’s guidance and teaching that respects all life from the moment of conception through natural death.  Read the complete blog here.

  • The New York State Catholic Conference Memorandum of Opposition

    The New York State Catholic Conference Memorandum of Opposition

    A.2129, Rosenthal: In relation to legalizing physician-assisted suicide

    The above-referenced bills would add a new section of the Public Health Law to allow physicians to prescribe lethal doses of medication for the express purpose of ending a patient’s life.

    The New York State Catholic Conference opposes these bills for the reasons outlined below.

    Legalizing physician-assisted suicide would:

    Blur longstanding medical, moral and legal distinctions between withdrawing extraordinary medical assistance and taking active steps to destroy human life. One lets people die a natural death; the other is the deliberate and direct act of hastening death.
    Undermine the physician’s role as healer, forever alter the doctor-patient relationship, and lessen the quality of care provided to patients at the end of life. Patients are best served when medical professionals, together with families and loved ones, provide support and care with dignity and respect, not lethal doses of drugs. The American Medical Association holds a policy position against physician-assisted suicide, which they say is “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role” and would be “difficult or impossible to control.”
    Lead to psychological, financial and other pressures for vulnerable persons to end their lives. In today’s era of health care rationing and cost-cutting, physician-assisted suicide could easily rise to the level of the most acceptable, and even expected, “treatment” for terminal illness. In 1994, Governor Mario Cuomo’s Task Force on Life & the Law released a report unanimously rejecting assisted suicide, and cautioned: “No matter how carefully and guidelines are framed, assisted suicide and euthanasia will be practiced through the prism of social inequality and bias that characterizes the delivery of services in all segments of society, including health care. The practices will pose the greatest risks to those who are poor, elderly, members of a minority group or without access to good medical care. The growing concern about health care costs increases the risks. This cost consciousness will not be diminished, and may well be exacerbated, by health care reform.”
    Rather than assisting suicide, government should be consistent in its efforts to prevent suicide. It is illogical for the state to promote/facilitate suicide for one group of persons — calling the suicides of those with a terminal illness and a specific prognosis “dignified and humane,” while recognizing suicide as a serious statewide public health concern in all other circumstances, and spending enormous resources to combat it.

    Tremendous strides are being made by our state in suicide prevention, as evidenced by the State Office of Mental Health’s suicide prevention projects, anti-bullying campaigns in the schools, suicide awareness training in prisons, and even extra safety precautions on bridges to discourage those feeling hopeless and depressed. These efforts, and their consistent message that “Life Is Worth Living,” are undermined by this legislation.

    Moreover, the double standard established by these bills is based entirely on disability. Those who are “terminal,” predicted to die within six months, either are, or will become, disabled. They will likely lose their ability to do many of the things they formerly did and will need assistance in daily living. Offering this group of persons suicide assistance, rather than suicide prevention, is discrimination based on disability.

    We urge the state to remove barriers and improve access to palliative care and hospice care for those in the final stages of terminal illness. Improved education and training of physicians in pain management, together with appropriate diagnosis and treatment for depression, would go a long way toward eliminating calls for suicide among the sick and the dying.

    We strongly urge you to oppose these bills. Visit website

  • Assisted suicide legislation is bad medicine for all New Yorkers

    Assisted suicide legislation is bad medicine for all New Yorkers

    Several bills have been introduced in New York State that would fundamentally alter the doctor-patient relationship by authorizing physician-assisted suicide for individuals declared by a doctor to be terminally ill. Like similar bills that have passed in several other states, New York’s bills lack important safeguards, making coercion or misapplication of the law a serious threat. Furthermore, they send a dangerous message to society that when someone is considered a “burden” to someone else, his or her life is no longer worth living. While New York rightly spends millions of dollars a year to combat suicide, it is considering undermining these efforts significantly by declaring that oftentimes, suicide is “death with dignity.” The not-so-subtle implication is that those who choose to fight for their lives or to simply allow themselves to die a natural death are somehow undignified.

    The New York State Catholic Conference has joined other opponents as part of the New York Alliance Against Assisted Suicide, made up of patients-rights, disabilities-rights advocates, health care, civil rights and faith-based advocacy organizations. Together we support increased access to palliative care (comfort care) and a rejection of the dangerous national movement toward physician assisted suicide.

  • Memorandums of Opposition on Assisted Suicide – New York State Catholic Conference

    Memorandums of Opposition on Assisted Suicide – New York State Catholic Conference

    S.3685, Savino / A.2129-A, Rosenthal; S.5814-A, Bonacic / A.5261-C, Paulin: In relation to legalizing physician-assisted suicide

    Published on January 22nd, 2016

    Downloadable PDF version of this memo HERE.

    The above-referenced bills would add a new section of the Public Health Law to allow physicians to prescribe lethal doses of medication for the express purpose of ending a patient’s life.

    The New York State Catholic Conference opposes these bills for the reasons outlined below. Legalizing physician-assisted suicide would:

    • Blur longstanding medical, moral and legal distinctions between withdrawing extraordinary medical assistance and taking active steps to destroy human life. One lets people die a natural death; the other is the deliberate and direct act of hastening death.
    • Undermine the physician’s role as healer, forever alter the doctor-patient relationship, and lessen the quality of care provided to patients at the end of life. Patients are best served when medical professionals, together with families and loved ones, provide support and care with dignity and respect, not lethal doses of drugs. The American Medical Association holds a policy position against physician-assisted suicide, which they say is “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role” and would be “difficult or impossible to control.”
    • Lead to psychological, financial and other pressures for vulnerable persons to end their lives. In today’s era of health care rationing and cost-cutting, physician-assisted suicide could easily rise to the level of the most acceptable, and even expected, “treatment” for terminal illness. In 1994, Governor Mario Cuomo’s Task Force on Life & the Law released a report unanimously rejecting assisted suicide, and cautioned: “No matter how carefully any guidelines are framed, assisted suicide and euthanasia will be practiced through the prism of social inequality and bias that characterizes the delivery of services in all segments of society, including health care. The practices will pose the greatest risks to those who are poor, elderly, members of a minority group or without access to good medical care. The growing concern about health care costs increases the risks. This cost consciousness will not be diminished, and may well be exacerbated, by health care reform.”

    Rather than assisting suicide, government should be consistent in its efforts to prevent suicide. It is illogical for the state to promote/facilitate suicide for one group of persons — calling the suicides of those with a terminal illness and a specific prognosis “dignified and humane,” while recognizing suicide as a serious statewide public health concern in all other circumstances, and spending enormous resources to combat it.

    Tremendous strides are being made by our state in suicide prevention, as evidenced by the State Office of Mental Health’s suicide prevention projects, anti-bullying campaigns in the schools, suicide awareness training in prisons, and even extra safety precautions on bridges to discourage those feeling hopeless and depressed. These efforts, and their consistent message that “Life Is Worth Living,” are undermined by this legislation.

    Moreover, the double standard established by these bills is based entirely on disability. Those who are “terminal,” predicted to die within six months, either are, or will become, disabled. They will likely lose their ability to do many of the things they formerly did and will need assistance in daily living. Offering this group of persons suicide assistance, rather than suicide prevention, is discrimination based on disability.

    We urge the state to remove barriers and improve access to palliative care and hospice care for those in the final stages of terminal illness. Improved education and training of physicians in pain management, together with appropriate diagnosis and treatment for depression, would go a long way toward eliminating calls for suicide among the sick and the dying.

    We strongly urge you to oppose these bills.


    Maintain a Ban on Assisted Suicide

     

    Published on November 6th, 2015

    Printable version: Maintain Ban on Assisted Suicide

    Additional resources

    Summary

    New York’s current law prohibits assisting in suicide by anyone, including doctors who prescribe lethal doses of drugs to end the lives of terminally ill patients who wish to die. This law was challenged in 1994 and upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Vacco vs. Quill in 1997.

    Two pieces of legislation have been introduced in the New York Legislature to legalize physician-assisted suicide, and they are equally dangerous. In addition, a new lawsuit has been filed by an assisted suicide advocacy organization to overturn New York’s ban. The 2014 assisted suicide death of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard, who moved to Oregon to secure a physician’s help to commit suicide, has renewed efforts across the country to legalize this practice.

    Conference Position

    The Catholic Conference seeks to maintain New York State’s current prohibition on assisted suicide while ensuring increased support, resources, palliative and hospice care, appropriate pain relief and treatment for the terminally ill.

    Rationale

    New York State must maintain its current prohibition on assisted suicide.

    The 2011 Code of Medical Ethics of the American Medical Association states, “Allowing physicians to participate in assisted suicide would cause more harm than good. Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.” The 2015 position statement of the Medical Society of the State of New York reads in part ““Compelling arguments have not been made for medicine to change its footing and to incorporate the active shortening of life into the norms of medical practice.”

    If we legalize assisted suicide, the pressure on people to end their lives will dramatically rise. People with terminal illnesses will feel as though they need to “get out of the way” and not drain financial resources. They will inevitably get pressure, subtle or not so subtle, from relatives, health care providers, insurers. They will be made to feel as though the very fact that they are drawing breath is an inconvenience to someone else.

    Given today’s aging population, the significant spike in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, the increasing evidence of elder abuse, and the escalation of health care costs, the risks of coercion and abuse are very real.

    New York State rightly spends millions of dollars each year in efforts to prevent suicide. There are suicide hotline numbers, anti-bullying campaigns, programs to recognize suicidal symptoms and government-sponsored signs that read “Life Is Worth Living.” Legalizing assisted suicide would send an inconsistent message by saying that some lives are not worth living. This double standard would be based entirely on disability, as patients fear “losing autonomy” or “being a burden” to others because of their disabilities from terminal illness.

    Lifting New York’s ban on assisted suicide would provide a deadly, unnecessary option to patients, many of whom legitimately fear pain, depression and abandonment. These persons can be significantly helped through pain relief, palliative care, the hospice environment and compassionate loving care.

    To date, five states in the nation have legalized assisted suicide: Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and California. In those states, assisted suicide is considered a “medical treatment,” and is covered by health insurance programs. In 2015, efforts to legalize the practice in Connecticut, Tennessee, Maryland, Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming and Minnesota failed. New Yorkers must remain vigilant to safeguard our laws against assisted suicide and to promote respect for all human lives.

    This issue paper is available in PDF form HERE.

  • Talking Points – for brief bulletin ads and pastor’s columns

    • The term “death with dignity” is insulting and biased. There is nothing remotely undignified about the natural process of death. Every human life has inherent dignity, and death is a part of every human life. Death is not a “choice.” Death is a certainty.
    • This is a dangerous movement. New York State rightly spends millions of dollars every year in efforts to combat suicide. If you cross any major bridge in this region, you will see a sign that says “Life Is Worth Living.” We have anti-bullying campaigns and suicidehotlines, all to prevent suicide. And now we’re turning around and saying, “Well, some lives are not worth living.” This double standard is based entirely on disability, as patients fear “losing autonomy” or “being a burden” due to their disabilities.
    • If we legalize assisted suicide, the pressure on people to end their lives will dramatically rise. People with terminal illnesses will feel as though they need to “get out of the way” and not drain financial resources. They will inevitably get pressure, subtle or not so subtle, from relatives, health care providers, insurers. They will be made to feel as though the very fact that they are drawing breath is an inconvenience to someone else.
    • The legislation that has been introduced in New York State lack safeguards for vulnerable people. There is no requirement for counseling, there is a lack of informed consent, there are loopholes which allow for coercion and undue influence by others, and there are insufficient conscience protections for hospitals and health providers.
    • Pain control has come so far. If we’re going to support something, let’s support increased education in pain management for all health professionals, education in palliative care, and removing barriers to hospice care. We should focus on ending the suffering, not ending the life of the sufferer. Kill the pain, not the patient.
    • The NYS Catholic Conference has a new website and video to inform Catholics of our teachings about the end of life. www.CatholicEndofLife.org The Catholic Church does not teach that life must be preserved by any and all means. Extraordinary means are not necessary when death is near; people must be allowed to die naturally. But we can’t intentionally take their lives or help them to intentionally hasten their death.
    • Legislation in support of Assisted Suicide has been recently introduced into the both houses of the New York State legislature. Education, prayer, advocacy and references for care and services that support life from the moment of conception to natural death are needed now more than ever to promote and defend the sanctity of all life. Please see resources and recent media in support of life and end of life issues that can be shared and voiced in homilies, though chaplaincy, parish committees, ministries, schools, religious education programs, parish outreach and diocesan entities. Workshops and meetings can also provide time for video and dialogue. Providing the foundational understanding of the dignity of the human person through all phases of life promotes a culture of life, and love of one another. Letter – Assisted Suicide Legislation
    • TAKE ACTION NOW at the NYSCC Catholic Action Network to oppose assisted suicide legislation in New York State. 

  • Article: Life Issues Forum: The True Face Of Assisted Suicide

    Life Issues Forum: The True Face Of Assisted Suicide

    By Richard M. Doerflinger
    FEBRUARY 26, 2016

    Since California legalized assisted suicide last year for people diagnosed as terminally ill, the former Hemlock Society — now a multi-million-dollar operation called “Compassion & Choices” or C&C — has stepped up efforts to pass similar laws in other states. At the center of its campaign is the late Brittany Maynard, an attractive 30-year-old cancer patient who moved to Oregon to obtain a lethal drug overdose prescribed by a physician. Her husband is now a paid spokesperson for C&C.

    Recently the state of Oregon released its 2015 figures on assisted suicide deaths, indicating how C&C’s portrayal compares to the reality.

    State-sanctioned suicides in Oregon keep rising. There were 105 deaths in 2014 (44% higher than the previous year) and 132 in 2015 (another 26% higher). In each of these years, exactly one patient was under 35 years old (that must have been Ms. Maynard herself in 2014). Last year, 78% of those obtaining lethal drugs were aged 65 and over, with a median age of 73. Most were women; most had no health insurance, or only government insurance; most had no living spouse or registered domestic partner.  More than 96% received no psychological evaluation, to test for depression or other conditions that can lead to suicidal thoughts.

    C&C presents its agenda as a boon to autonomous people who live life on their own terms and want to exit life the same way to avoid intractable pain. The usual reality is different. When asked why they were obtaining the drug overdose, 96% of patients said they were less able to engage in activities that make life enjoyable; almost as many said they were losing their autonomy or their dignity; about half said they had become a “burden” on family or caregivers. Fewer than 30% cited any concern about pain.  Incidentally, 90% died in a private home (their own or that of relatives or friends), allowing an educated guess as to who they were “burdening” and who was present to “assist” their final act — in 79% of cases no health professional was present.

    This profile should be eerily familiar to public health experts: it describes people most at risk of elder abuse. A review of “Elder Abuse” in the November 13, 2015 New England Journal of Medicine estimates that about 10% of seniors are victims, with financial exploitation of seniors “a virtual epidemic.” More likely to be victims are women aged 65 to 74, living with household members other than a spouse, of lower income, and feeling isolated or without social support. Basically Oregon has provided a “safe and legal” (safe for the perpetrators, that is) way to practice, and cover up, a most final form of elder abuse. The only reporting is by the physician prescribing the drugs (who then steps out of the picture), and deaths are recorded as caused by the person’s illness.

    One more demographic question: What age group in America is least supportive of legalizing assisted suicide? In many polls it is those aged 65 and over. In a national poll commissioned by the U.S. bishops’ conference in 2014, for example, only 46% of seniors supported the idea. Strongest support (60%) was found among their grown children — 35- to 44-year-olds, the “sandwich generation” now often caring and paying for both children and aging parents.

    How tempting it might be, for those in this situation with no strong moral compass, to believe that assisted suicide is a new “freedom” for one’s parents.

    Eighteen years ago Derek Humphry, Hemlock’s founder, wrote in his book Freedom to Die that “in the final analysis, economics, not the quest for broadened individual liberties or increased autonomy, will drive assisted suicide to the plateau of acceptable practice.” C&C wants to draw the curtain over this aspect of its agenda. The rest of us, especially seniors, need to open our eyes and see through the masquerade.

    For more on the Oregon law, see www.goo.gl/7tSrR5.


    Mr. Doerflinger, now turning 63, is Associate Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  For more on the bishops’ pro-life efforts see www.usccb.org/prolife.

  • Article: Does Assisted Suicide Equal Death with Dignity?

    Does Assisted Suicide Equal Death with Dignity?

    by Msgr. Donald Hanson

    Pastor, Most Holy Trinity, East Hampton

    Msgr. Donald Hanson

    Msgr. Donald Hanson

    You have most likely read or heard about Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old, newly married woman who was diagnosed with a malignant and inoperable brain cancer. She chose to end her life by a deliberate overdose of barbiturates prescribed by her doctor in Oregon, one of five states where assisted suicide is legal. She decided to make her choice public on social media and became part of a public campaign to influence acceptance of “death with dignity.”

    Brittany’s story is a very sad one and we cannot but feel sorrow, not only for her, but for her husband and her family as well. But there are underlying values and assumptions here which need to be teased out and evaluated. Is suicide in this way really “death with dignity”? Is this an ethical decision which society should welcome and embrace? Clearly from a Catholic standpoint it is not. But why? Isn’t this just the Catholic Church standing in the way of progress and compassion once again? I think not, and here is why.

    Life is a gift. It is infinitely precious and valuable. This is true whether we are born perfectly formed, incredibly talented and stunningly handsome, or whether we come into this world with some disability, whether physical, mental, or otherwise. We are God’s creation and each of us is a miracle.

    That also means that we are not our own. As St. Paul says to the Corinthians: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.” (1Co 6:19-20 NABre). And again in Romans: “For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” (Rom 14:8 NABre) That reality is something which secular culture does not understand and does not accept, yet it is a central part of our faith. It is more than just that God forbids suicide (which God does), but why God does: Because we are God’s; life is God’s gift. We—in all our imperfection—are an expression of God’s love.

    Although I feel sympathy for Brittany I also recognize that this is part of a marketing effort organized by pro-suicide groups. Be attentive! Doctors, for the most part, do not want to be a part of this. It directly contradicts their calling to be healers. Nor is this a private matter; it has immediate social effects. But our highly individualized contemporary American culture doesn’t support that either. The libertarian view sees everyone as completely autonomous and given freedom not to be limited by anyone. That is not the Christian view. We belong to one another. We were made to be in community and fellowship. We are the body of Christ. The common good is a treasured part of our political and spiritual heritage. Extreme individualism is one of the poisoned pills our culture is handing out to us.

    End of life issues—as also beginning of life issues—have been made more complex because of technology. Ethical reflection has a hard time keeping pace with new scientific capabilities. But Christian ethics insists always on the dignity of the human person. Catholic moral teaching has always held that we are not obliged to take extraordinary means to prolong life. Important advances in palliative care (keeping terminal patients pain-free) and the hospice movement have reduced the physical, psychological and spiritual pain of death and dying. Human life is not a consumer commodity to be thrown away when it is less than optimal. Death is part of life; not a taboo. Were we to think, feel, say or act as if there was no value or meaning to death, we would be abandoning Christ on the cross. Jesus “loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.” (Jn 13:1 NABre) And that “end” was when he bowed his head on the cross and gave up his spirit.

    Respect life. Pray for and visit the sick and suffering. Accompany the dying. Like Jesus, “love them till the end.”

  • Take Action Now

    TAKE ACTION NOW at the NYSCC Catholic Action Network to oppose assisted suicide legislation in New York State.
  • Opposing Assisted Suicide Conference

    The Diocese of Rockville Centre recently held an educational conference on  Opposition to Assisted Suicide designed to educate diocesan leadership on the moral, medical, legal and legislative dangers of physician-assisted suicide. Newly proposed legislation on assisted suicide has  been introduced in the New York State Legislature. This two-part Telecare special includes highlights from the conference.

    Part 1

    If you are having trouble viewing video click here.

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    Part 2

    If you are having trouble viewing video click here.

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    Conference Presentations

  • Resources

    Church Teaching and Resources on Assisted Suicide

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    • Opposition to Assisted Suicide Conference Video and Materials (see above tab)

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    Media Resources in Support of Life with Opposition to Assisted Suicide Legislation

    1. Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Doctor Assisted Suicide; here.
    2. Op Ed. by Dr. Ira Byock on assisted suicide is here.
    3. Life is Worth Living Even When Your Terminally Ill, Blog post from the Arch Diocese of New York.
    4. Does Assisted Suicide Equal Death with Dignity? Msgr. Donald Hanson.
    5. Video on Death with Dignity.

  • Videos

    Catholic Guidance for End-of-Life Decision Making

    Guide for end-of-life decision making, by state


    Luke’s Story

    lukes story

    You don’t discourage suicide by assisting suicide. “Every suicide is tragic – whether you’re old or young, healthy or sick, your life is worth living,” says Luke Maxwell, 19, who survived an attempt to take his own life.


    Death with Dignity


    Man of Steel

    For more videos click here


    Cardinal Timothy Dolan On Doctor-Assisted Suicide:

    ‘Real Heroes Are Those Who Die Naturally’

    Untitled