News

Doctor-assisted suicide: bishop slams ‘culture of death’

Doctor-assisted suicide: bishop slams ‘culture of death’

The Hawaii Senate voted overwhelmingly this week to advance a bill permitting physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients – despite strong opposition from the Catholic Church.

Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva, above, in a recent letter to parishioners in his diocese, called the effort to legalise physician-assisted suicide as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and:

Another manifestation … of the ‘culture of death’.

Called the “Medical Aid in Dying” bill, SB 1129 passed with 22 votes in favor, three against. The bill now goes to the state House of Representatives where it will be debated and voted on in committee before going before the full body.

The proposed law would allow an adult Hawaii resident diagnosed with a terminal illness and determined to have six or fewer months to live, to request a prescription for a lethal dose of medication to be self-administered to end his or her life.

SB 1129, which is based on a law in Oregon, lists a number of safeguards intended to protect patients from abuse or victimisation. These include confirmation by two physicians or advanced practice registered nurses of the patient’s:

Diagnosis, prognosis, mental competence and voluntariness of the request.

The bill also requires that the patient must give both oral and written requests for the lethal medication, witnessed by two people, and that there be waiting periods between the requests and the writing of the prescription.

In testimony against the bill, the Hawaii Catholic Conference, the public policy voice for the Catholic Church in Hawaii, stated that legal assisted suicide:

Can 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.

The Catholic conference pointed out the incongruity of the state promoting and facilitating suicide for one group of persons, calling it “dignified and humane”, while:

Recognising suicide as a serious statewide public health concern in all other circumstances.

Bishop Silva countered the argument that terminal illness “diminishes” a person’s dignity or “true humanity”.

It costs a tremendous amount of time and money to care for someone who is very sick. Yet true compassion means ‘suffering with’ someone –or allowing others to suffer with us – and while it is very humbling, the most intimate bonds of human caring can be nurtured in just such circumstances.

He expressed concern that legalising assisted suicide would open the door to a “culture of euthanasia” and abuse of the elderly.

It is certainly cheaper and easier to end a life than to care for it in the midst of suffering. Will decisions be made on economic expediency? Will others around the patient, such as heirs, be more motivated to aid in the rapid demise of the patient for their own benefit? Will this be another weapon in the hands of those who already abuse the elders they care for, a problem that has become quite serious?

The suffering of others is a call to us all, not to end life by offering a lethal ‘medication’, but to care for them in love, even when it is most difficult to do so.

Testimony by Eva Andrade, President of Hawaii Family Forum, a nondenominational educational organisation, said that assisted suicide invites exploitation of vulnerable people.

It puts the poor, elderly, sick and disabled at risk for abuse no matter what the proposed safeguards. With elder abuse already a major problem in Hawaii, turning the right to die into a duty to die – creating subtle pressure on the elderly to end their lives early so as not to be a burden to their families –  may very well be a consequence of this law.

Democratic state Senator Breene Harimoto, a cancer survivor, opposed the bill, saying:

We should be making laws to give people a sense of hope, not making laws that allow physicians to assist in causing death.

And he called the bill:

A misplaced sense of compassion.

10 responses to “Doctor-assisted suicide: bishop slams ‘culture of death’”

  1. Rob Andrews says:

    Just a thought…I wonder what his opinion would be of death with dignity if he were faced with an incurable disease that left him in severe pain.

    My uncle suffered terrible pain from cancer that spread throughout his whole body, he wasted away to skin-and-bones.

    But in the state of Connecticut back in the’70s, the wouldn’t do anthing to end his suffering..

    “Walk a mile in my shoes”–American Indian proverb

  2. L.Long says:

    My mom also suffered for a few years in pain, But as a devote catlick, she accepted it. There is NO religion to be respected, the catlicks bosses should live long very pain filled endings to their lives! But they would not as hypocrisy run wild thru the religious!
    Just as with abortion, it don’t matter what laws the rich religious aholes put thru, they will get the abortion (death drugs) if needed, it is the poor and poor devote who are made to suffer.

  3. Matthew Carr says:

    The Catholic church has never done anything to mitigate human suffering, ever. All of their efforts seem concentrated on causing more of it. As to suicide I think I can safely say that no other single organization has been more responsible for causing suicides than the Catholic church. We can see this every day in women killing themselves because they’ve been unable to avoid getting pregnant because of the lack of birth control and are forced to remain that way because of the lack of abortion. We see it in the thousands of people who have killed themselves to end the pain of clerical sexual abuse. We see it in the people who have taken their own lives because of the shame brought on them by these common scolds for non-crimes like being divorced.

    “Will decisions be made on economic expediency?” You mean like salting away money in other charity accounts to make it harder to be awarded to abuse victims? It’s got to be in the diocese handbook somewhere because they all know about doing it. If the church is so worried about economic expediency in this case they need to pry open their wallet and do something about it besides scolding. I would think that economics would enter into most medical decisions at some point and that’s just facing the truth, something the church is unable to do. Culture of death indeed.

  4. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    A culture of death? Surely it’s religions like this, with their emphasis on the afterlife that are death cults.

  5. Angela_K says:

    It is no business of the catholic church what people do with their bodies, the church don’t own them and should have no rights over them. The various religions certainly like suffering, provided it isn’t them; they have a cruel fetish,gaining pleasure from others discomfort. Like many people who post here I watched my mother die very slowly over many years as Alzheimer’s gradually killed her, she wanted to end her life, but was too far gone to do it without assistance.

  6. Paul says:

    How can a man who lives his every day according to a 3000 year old ‘code’ from a bunch of desert goat herders and seems experienced enough of life or death to inform any one else what is right and what is wrong is beyond me.

  7. Broga says:

    In the RC Church ignorance, pitilessness and a total lack of understanding and compassion rules. Except, of course, when they are protecting their paedophile priests.

  8. Rob Andrews says:

    Hallelujah (Hebrew: ????????, Hallalu-yah) is a Hebrew word meaning “Praise ye, Yah.

    I hear Christians use that word a lot: “Hallelujah Jesus died for my sins.” That’s just vicarious punishment. Somebody else died for my sins. What bothers me is that they get a good feeling from this idea of somebody suffering for WHAT THEY DID.

    How dare you take PLEASURE in this.

  9. Edwin Salter says:

    Of course, neither Rome nor God can be authorities here, and their enthusiasm for suffering qualifies them only for derision and opposition.
    But re dying I’m probably out of step. Am untroubled by the idea of suicide (but it should come after careful counsel for oneself and the effect on others – many suicides are quite inappropriate distress responses and, in fact, most failures do not repeat the attempt).
    Think that an informed decision that no relief or alternative is possible should be followed by DIY – if I’m not willing to kill myself the (contaminating?) moral responsibility should not be passed to others

  10. StephenJP says:

    Pot/kettle: if any organisation can be described as a death cult it is the RCC, which has turned suffering into a sacrament. The lovely “Saint” Mother Teresa is an excellent example: she insisted on telling women who were terminally ill and in appalling pain that they were sharing Jesus’s agony rather than doing anything to relieve their suffering.