WASHINGTON – The Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved a policy statement on physician-assisted suicide at its meeting in Seattle June 16. The statement, To Live Each Day with Dignity, passed with a vote of 191-1. It marks the first time the full body of bishops has issued a statement on the issue.
The bishops’ statement speaks of the hardships and fears of patients facing terminal illness and the importance of life-affirming palliative care. It cites the Church’s concern for those who are tempted to commit suicide, its opposition to physician-assisted suicide, and the consistency of this stance with the principle of equal and inherent human rights and the ethical principles of the medical profession.
Countering claims of the assisted suicide movement, that its agenda affirms patients’ “choices” and expresses “compassion” for their suffering, the statement says physician-assisted suicide does not promote compassion because its focus is not on eliminating suffering, but on eliminating the patient. True compassion, it states, dedicates itself to meeting patients’ needs and presupposes a commitment to their equal worth.
The bishops’ also stressed in the statement that assisted suicide is not an addition to palliative care, but a poor substitute that can ultimately become an excuse for denying better medical care to seriously ill people, including those who never considered suicide an option.
The full text of the statement will be available online at www.usccb.org/toliveeachday/.