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End of Life
- To Live Each Day with Dignity
- Death With Dignity and the Gift of Palliative Care
- USCCB Physcian-Assisted Suicide Page
Letters & Statements
Stem Cell Research
Life Issues Forum
For on-going information on Respect Life issues, read the Life Issues Forum bi-weekly columns from the USCCB. (Click here.)
End of Life: Legal and Policy Issues
If those who are dying are embraced by their family and their community, they will not seek death, but will live their last days well, and then accept death when it comes.
This page contains information on legal and policy matters.
For Catholic teaching on end-fo-life jump to
Dying is just that, an art! According to leading experts in the newly formed medical specialty of palliative care, there is definitely an art to dying, a way to die well. This art, when practiced while alive and well, enables a patient to seamlessly, effortlessly, and spiritually make the transition to the next part of his or her journey.
“Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is not likely ever to go back in again,” Dutch doctor Theo Boer warned recently in Britain, where Parliament is debating its first assisted suicide.
“Don’t do it, Britain! Euthanasia is on the way to become a ‘default’ mode of dying for cancer patients,” he continued. Boer was an early advocate for assisted suicide, but is now strongly opposed.
In 2002 the Netherlands implemented a law giving individuals the right to end their own life with a doctor’s approval when they are suffering unbearably. Neighboring Belgium did the same.
To reassure the skeptical, advocates insisted that physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia would be rare.
But the reality since it became legal has been far different in the two countries. Most obvious is the reality that the number of people dying with medical assistance is rising rapidly and it only shows signs of continuing to increase.
"Dying is one of the most important moments in our lives. Like all important moments, it deserves thoughtful preparation.” (Fr. Lawrence Reilly, Ethicist and Theologian)
The end of life can be a time of spiritual and emotional growth. But with the onset of technological advances, patients and families may find themselves dealing with complicated treatment plans instead of addressing those spiritual questions.
Fortunately, new options on the care and comfort of people near the end of life have paralleled the emergence of technical advances.
California lawmakers are being asked to create a right to die in new legislation proposed this week. SB 128, by Senators Monning (D-Monterey) and Wolk (D-Napa), attempts to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide in the Golden State.
Debate on physician-assisted suicide (PAS) has once again surfaced following the tragic suicide of Brittany Maynard. But, as is usually the case, media coverage tends to misstate Catholic teaching on end-of-life issues and some proponents deliberately twist our teachings to confuse the debate.
Proponents continue to focus on emotional elements and ignore the very significant and dangerous policy implications of PAS. But the discussion must be much deeper and the potential consequences for the elderly, disabled and disenfranchised members of society from PAS made much clearer.
Recently, the SFWire, an online news service, ran a brief story about an "empowerment luncheon designed to raise funds and awareness for patients' rights and end-of-life decision making," hosted by Compassion & Choices, at theSt. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. Behind the slick presentation, however, lies a more ominous motive -- legalizing Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS) in California
Sadly, on May 20, 2012, Vermont became the fourth state to legalize physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill individuals—but the first in which it was by passage of legislation. In Oregon and Washington, assisted suicide was approved through public initiatives, and in Montana by judicial decree.
A 45-page PowerPoint that teaches about public policy, reviews the history of suicide/euthanasia, outlines Church teaching, reviews the current state of the law, and discusses current efforts in California to block the legalization of physician-assisted suicide. (Download 1.3 Mb)