By Greg Schleppenbach
April 21, 2017
The campaign to legalizedoctor-prescribed suicide has been wisely rejected by most policymakers in our
society. Most people, regardless of religious affiliation, know that suicide is
a terrible tragedy, one that a compassionate society should work to prevent.
They realize that allowing doctors to prescribe the means for any of their
patients to kill themselves is a corruption of the healing art.
But assisted suicide
proponents like the
deceptively-named group "Compassion & Choices" (C&C) have
renewed their aggressive nationwide campaign through legislation, litigation,
and public advertising, targeting states they see as most susceptible to their
message. So the battle against doctor-assisted suicide continues to rage on
In 1994, Oregon became the
first state to legalize doctor-assisted suicide. The assisted suicide campaign
has since advanced to legalize the deadly practice in Washington, Vermont,
California, Colorado, and the District of Columbia. Montana's highest court,
while not officially legalizing the practice, suggested in 2009 that it could
be allowed under certain circumstances.
advocates got similar legislation introduced in 27 states this year.
Thankfully, many of these bills have been, or likely will be, defeated. But
several states still face serious threats, including Hawaii, Maine, New York,
and New Jersey. They are also turning to courts to overturn laws banning the
practice, with lawsuits pending in New York, Hawaii, and Massachusetts.
The U.S. Congress was drawn
into the debate when Washington, D.C.'s City Council passed a law legalizing
assisted suicide in November 2016. Our Constitution gives
Congress ultimate control over D.C. laws and efforts to nullify are underway. But
since Congress has not addressed assisted suicide for many years, members need
basic education from constituents about why assisted suicide is dangerous for
patients and their families.
Another battle ground is in the medical profession itself. Long-held
opposition to assisted suicide by medical associations has been essential to
preserving laws against the practice. That is why C&C is infiltrating medical associations and urging them to abandon
opposition and adopt a position of neutrality. The
move to neutrality by medical associations in Oregon, Vermont, and California
helped pave the way for legalization of assisted suicide in those states. And now the American Medical Association is considering whether
to change its decades-long position against assisted suicide to one of
One way to
counter the C&C effort is by asking our doctors their position on assisted
suicide. If they oppose it, thank them for their stance and urge them to speak
out against the practice with their medical associations, their state
legislature and with Congress. If the answer is "support," try to change their
minds—and if they won't, find a new doctor, letting your former doctor know why
Euphemistic terms like
"aid in dying," "compassion," and "choice" cloak the reality that assisted
suicide is a deadly act: doctors prescribing a lethal drug for suicide by
overdose. Far from fostering compassion or choice, assisted suicide fosters
discrimination by creating two classes of people: those whose suicides we work
hard to prevent and those whose suicides we assist.
Evidence shows that legalizing
assisted suicide can reduce access to quality end-of-life care, put pressure on
patients and their families, and open them up to abuses from insurance
companies, among many other dangers. Your help is
needed to expose these and other dangers. Equip yourself with fact sheets,
videos, and other resources available at www.usccb.org/toliveeachday, www.patientsrightscouncil.org, and www.patientsrightsaction.org (see "Tools").
is Associate Director for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops. To read the U.S.
bishops' 2011 policy statement on assisted suicide and related resources,