August 25, 2017
In the Church's
efforts to teach about the grave evil of assisted suicide and the threats it
poses, we must use clear and vigorous language. And it is always, always
important that we do so with love.
is suicide. In the few states where it is legal, physicians willing to do so prescribe
lethal drugs at the request of patients seeking the drugs to end their own
lives. Proponents of assisted suicide use terms like "death with dignity" and
"aid in dying." But these are misleading. They are the sickly-sweet phrases of a
poisonous ideology that attacks our full dignity and worth as human beings.
These phrases go beyond
word games and become flat-out contradictions carefully etched into law. In
fact, every state law (and proposed bill) legalizing assisted suicide in this
country follows Oregon's law, proclaiming, "the actions taken in accordance
with [the law] shall not, for any purposes, constitute suicide [or] assisted
suicide." So, according to the law itself, assisted suicide isn't assisted
suicide? The only sensible response to this legal blustering must be something
like this sentiment from a wise character in C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce: "Every disease that submits to a cure shall be
cured: but we will not call blue yellow to please those who insist on having
We should not be
seduced by slippery language into ignoring hard truths. The dying process can
be painful, messy, full of uncertainty and difficult questions—just like life. But
there is death with authentic dignity:
dying at peace with God and our loved ones. Dying or terminally ill persons
deserve the best care we have to offer, including appropriate treatment of
symptoms and pain relief. There is a way to face this process with peace, not by
hastening death, but by experiencing the support and loving care that our
society should offer to those preparing for death. Assisted suicide, on the
other hand, hurts the individual and
the entire human family, sending a message that some lives are "completed" or not
as valuable as others. We should kill the pain, not the patient.
always walks hand-in-hand with love. It is not enough to say, "suicide is bad."
We must also say, "life is good"—especially when life is old, fragile,
differently abled, so young and so small our eyes cannot see it, or of a
different skin color or place of origin.
We should learn how
to best love those who are close to death. We should pray for holy deaths for them
and for ourselves, recognizing that Jesus brings us to new life with Him through
His death and resurrection. We should pray for the grace to build a true culture
of life. And we should affirm the goodness of life in all that we do and say.
is a staff assistant for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops. To read the U.S. bishops' 2011 policy statement
on assisted suicide and related resources, visit www.usccb.org/toliveeachday.