.- A proposed Massachusetts ballot initiative to allow terminally ill patients to take a lethal dose of prescription drugs corrupts the medical profession and undercuts efforts to prevent suicide, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston said.
Cardinal O’Malley hoped that Massachusetts citizens will not be “seduced” by language about “dignity and compassion,” charging that these words “disguise the sheer brutality of helping people kill themselves,” the Boston Globe reports.
He said people of all faiths must reassure the sick and dying of the value of human life and must work to improve end-of-life care.
At the end of their lives, people fear “losing control” and “being abandoned,” the cardinal told a Mass for Massachusetts lawyers and jurists at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Sept. 17. He said that society will be judged on how it responds to those “who believe their lives have diminished in value.”
Regardless of their religious beliefs, he added, most people “know that suicide is a tragedy, one that a compassionate society should work to prevent.”
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley recently certified the language for the “Death With Dignity” ballot question legalizing the self-administration of a lethal dose of prescription drugs for the terminally ill. Unless there is legislative action, it will be placed on the fall 2012 ballot.
The Catholic bishops of Massachusetts are “strongly opposed” to the measure, the Massachusetts Catholic Conference said Sept. 7.
“We are called upon to defend the gospel of life with courage and resolve,” Cardinal O’Malley told the jurists. “Your very profession invests in all of you a great responsibility to ensure that all laws are just.”
Steve Crawford, a spokesman for initiative sponsor Dignity 2012, voiced respect for the cardinal’s opinion but argued the proposal is meant to provide the terminally ill with a choice about how they die.
Cardinal O’Malley said that allowing physicians to prescribe the means for patients to kill themselves is “a corruption of the medical profession.”
“It even violates the Hippocratic Oath that has guided physicians for thousands of years,” he added.
The cardinal told the Boston Globe that the Catholic Conference plans a grassroots campaign to educate voters about its position.
Education is needed “to help people understand that what this petition is really about is suicide,” he explained.
The Massachusetts Catholic Conference said the initiative is “a first step in Massachusetts toward legalizing physician-assisted suicide, effectively authorizing the killing of human beings prior to their natural death.”
“The Roman Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts stand firm in the belief that a compassionate society should work to prevent suicide, which is always a terrible tragedy, no matter what form it may take.”
It clarified that Catholic teaching emphasizes the responsibility to preserve human life and opposes both euthanasia and assisted suicide. However, Church teaching allows the refusal of “extraordinary means” of treatment that may excessively burden the patient without alleviating his or her underlying condition.
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