Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
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From the Washington State Catholic Conference: Assisted Suicide: Initiative 1000 – A Dangerous Proposal
the Washington State Catholic Conference
(From the Sept. 11, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
July 3, 2008
Proponents have gathered signatures on an initiative, based on Oregon’s law, to legalize physician assisted suicide in Washington State. The initiative proposes a fundamental change in civil law that would allow physicians to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients who request them.
This initiative is contrary to Catholic teaching that life is sacred and that God alone is the true sovereign over life. Human dignity and worth are simply innate to our relationship to God and not dependent on our social usefulness. As Catholics we believe that a caring society assists persons with terminal illnesses, and their loved ones, to live as fully as possible the time they have left together.
Initiative 1000 reverses a longstanding social belief that considers suicide a tragedy. As a result of this reversal, the proposed initiative would have far reaching effects on the relationships between terminally ill persons, their physicians, and their family members. This measure undermines the implicit trust and confidence people have in a profession devoted to healing, comforting and protecting life. It also threatens family relationships because it lacks any requirement for family notification when individuals express the wish to take their own lives.
What about Oregon?
The proposed initiative is patterned after Oregon’s assisted suicide law. Narrowly approved by Oregon voters in 1994, the so-called Death With Dignity Act – the only law of its kind in the United States – is a good example of bad law. Only a few hundred deaths by assisted suicide have been reported, but the number of assisted deaths could be much higher as there are no sanctions for not reporting. Doctors prescribing a lethal dose of medication may not have known the patient. Patients who may be depressed can take their lives in Oregon without their family being notified until it is too late, and the number of patients referred for mental health evaluation has been negligible. Records are retained for only one year and provide few details because there is no oversight, nor mandatory reporting of abuses. There are also inadequate safeguards against abuse.
What are the dangers?
Most terminally ill patients experience some depression. However, if Initiative 1000 becomes law, those suffering from depression could still receive lethal medication because mental health evaluations are not required. Assisting in a suicide would turn the care-giving relationship between physicians and vulnerable patients upside down. Once committed solely to the well-being of their patients, physicians would be legally allowed to help their patients kill themselves. If voters say “no” to Initiative 1000, doctors and other care-givers will retain their age old mandate to provide treatment, control pain and support the terminally ill so they no longer feel the need to take their own lives.
Who opposes Initiative 1000?
The Coalition Against Assisted Suicide includes doctors, nurses, hospice workers, disability rights activists, religious leaders, and many citizens. Their website can be found at www.noassistedsuicide.com.
The Washington State Medical Association opposes Initiative 1000. The National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization does not support assisted suicide.
A detailed and growing list of people and organizations that oppose assisted suicide can be found at http://www.noassistedsuicide.com/page.php?2.
What you need to know about Initiative 1000 if it becomes law