Last month the governor of California, Jerry Brown, signed into law a bill promoting physician-assisted suicide. Based on a similar measure in Oregon, the law allows doctors to prescribe medication to end a patient’s life.
This recent legislation was introduced over the case of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old brain cancer patient, who moved from California to Oregon to take advantage of the state’s assisted suicide law and subsequently died there. California is the fifth state to legalize physician-assisted suicide after Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont.
Leading the opposition to the measure was Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles who said, “people suffering from terminal illness deserve true compassion and care — not violence.” He went on to describe how assisted suicide only offers a type of “hollow compassion.”
For Christians, followers of Christ, the beautiful truth is that every human life matters because every life is sacred and created by the God. Catholicism is deeply identified with human life. What other religion remembers the time when its founder was in his mother’s womb? Think about God’s words to the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” Pope Francis brought this same pro-life message to the United States when he urged the members of Congress to “defend life at every stage of development.”
Unfortunately, we live in a culture of great indifference and injustice based on our confusion about the meaning of creation and human life. In a society without God human life has no meaning. Often the value of human life is merely judged on one’s productivity. So as Christians we are called to rediscover the sanctity of life and the dignity of every human person, who is created in the image and likeness of God.
The fundamental injustice in our society is the killing of innocent children through abortion and the killing of the sick and defenseless through euthanasia and assisted suicide. If a child in the womb has no right to be born, if the sick and the elderly have no right to be taken care of, then there is no reason to defend anyone’s human rights.
Helping one to die is still killing. In fact, Archbishop Gomez reiterated that in supporting this legislation we are responding to the needs of our neighbors “with indifference, with the cold comfort of death.” In rebuttal, the archbishop proposed that we have an honest, public conversation about these issues and what they mean for how we provide health care for all people.
This new legislation has dangerous implications especially for the poor and the vulnerable. Archbishop Gomez warned that the assisted suicide bill is “pushing us into a quick-fix solution” that involves getting rid of people in our “throw-away culture,” but especially those whom we find too difficult, too burdensome or even too expensive to provide health care. These concerns will create terrible pressure on the poor, the elderly, the handicapped, the immigrants and even minorities. In Oregon after the passing of this legislation there was an overall 50 percent increase in doctor-assisted suicide.
At St. Charles Borromeo Seminary where I teach Spanish there is a student named Philip Johnson from the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, who has serious brain cancer. Out of his love for God and life, he tried to convince Brittany Maynard, the woman who moved from California to Oregon, to choose life. For me, he is our inspiration as he continues to study faithfully and tirelessly for the priesthood against great odds. By his example he encourages us to stand up for life out of love for God from conception to natural death.
Archbishop Gomez has defined death as a mystery, but insists that “we can make death less painful, less frightening and even make it a time for beauty, mercy and reconciliation.” We need to pray for each other and change our culture from one of death to one of life.
So let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to help all of us grow in true compassion, respecting the dignity of life for all from conception to natural death. Stand up for life!
Father Gus Puleo is pastor of St. Patrick Parish, Norristown.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
People have always had the right to kill themselves. What we haven’t had, however, is immunity for doctors for making a false certificate (since they certify that the suicide was a death by natural causes)–and immunity for murder.
This issue has been slickly packaged as being about “your right to choose,” with suicide referred to as a “health care option.” It is obviously neither. There are vultures circling out of sight, and they are (1) the beneficiaries of your life insurance policy, who cannot get the dough if your cause of death is stated as suicide; (2) your health insurer, which wants to cut its costs when you get sick; and (3) your greedy heirs, who want to get your assets early. Is the doctor in cahoots with any of these interests–getting a kickback?
You will never know. I happen to be Brittany Maynard’s aunt, and a lawyer. I requested all the records required by Oregon law to be created in connection with her suicide, and have been provided none of them, on grounds of “privacy.” This, even though a dead person has no privacy rights, and such things as permits for cremation and body transport are not medical records. The refusal to provide even a close relative such as an aunt records confirming that the suicide was the voluntary and competent act of the decedent means that the protections we’ve been told this law provides against the exercise of undue influence over a vulnerable person are entirely illusory.
The refusal to produce records, along with other substantial evidence, has caused me to conclude that the “suicide” was a hoax and that Brittany is off enjoying a pile of cash somewhere. Other evidence includes no funeral held; that her mother Debbie Ziegler’s brother (Brittany’s uncle) is in military intelligence; that most of the photos represented as Brittany are, instead, some model, NOT Brittany; that the funeral parlor told me “she is not in the system”; that it is not even legal, under Oregon law, to obtain the initial terminal diagnosis in one state, then move to Oregon to get the lethal drug; and that there is a CURE for the aggressive Glioblastoma multiforme tumof. You can read about my findings at: therealcolorado.blogspot.com/2015/02/brittany-maynard-my-undead-niece.html
Compassion & Choices is funded by George Soros–in other words, by the very health insurers who stand to benefit if doctors can legally lie on death certificates (and commit murder) with impunity.
As a transplanted Philadelphian to Los Angeles, and a health-care provider by calling, I’m extremely disappointed in Gov Brown for signing assisted suicide into law, especially in view of his Jesuit background and after talking to a number of priests in deciding to take this action. We live in a death culture, so I shouldn’t be all that surprised. I very much appreciate that my fellow Catholics in Philly are paying attention to this issue and are offering support and prayers.
Your source has done you a disservice. The promoters of assisted suicide have worn out their thesaurus attempting to imply that it is legal in Montana. Assisted suicide is a homicide in Montana. Our MT Supreme Court ruled that if a doctor is charged with a homicide they might have a potential defense based on consent. The Court did not address civil liabilities. No one in Montana has immunity from civil or criminal prosecution. Does that sound legal to you? Oregon model bills have been rejected by our legislature in 2011, 2013 and 2015 because of gaping loopholes that allow exploitation of elders and people with disabilities of all ages by predators and predatory corporations.
Note these loopholes and more work with each other to eviscerate intended safeguards.
By all these OR model laws all family members are not required to be contacted, hold that thought. A single predatory heir is allowed to steer the sign up and then execute the lethal process without a witness.
A witness is not required to confirm that the dose was so called “self administered” (you remember this was one of their lead selling points).
Even as the law provides immunity for all involved and demands the falsification of the death certificate (impossible to track trends for good public policy) it actually prohibits a public inquiry of any kind (remember the family members who were not contacted, no recourse for them). A straight up murder for money can slide right through. It is Dangerous public policy. As if that is not enough, in 2015 they added another black hole to the bogus signup process with “someone who claims to know how you communicate may speak for you throughout the lethal process, no other qualifiers”.
These loopholes and more are in the OR, WA, and CA’s laws and expand the scope of exploitation by predators and predatory corporations for windfall profits. However, it serves the health insurance corporations very well.