On June 16 the U.S. bishops approved a document on assisted suicide, which will become their first collective word on the matter. The statement, entitled “To Live Each Day with Dignity,” refutes the idea that assisted suicide is a compassionate form of medical treatment.
“Getting rid of yourself is a false choice,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairman of the bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, in a press conference following debate on the document at the bishops' spring meeting in Bellevue, Wash.
“The Church needs to respond in a timely and visible way to this renewed challenge, which will surely be pursued in a number of states in the years to come,” the pro-life chairman said.
The document required 180 positive votes from the bishops and received 191.
In “To Live Each Day with Dignity,” the bishops define true compassion as “meeting patients' needs and … a commitment to their equal worth.” This mentality contrasts sharply with physician-assisted suicide's elimination of the patient, as a means of ending suffering.
The bishops also state that the mindset of assisted suicide, if allowed into society, must “inevitably” target people with chronic illness and disabilities “whose suffering is considered serious enough for assisted death.”
At the press conference, Cardinal DiNardo also warned that the medical field risks losing its basic identity if it moves away from preserving life.
Rather than treating life itself as an illness, the bishops argue, physicians must provide “life-affirming palliative care” in keeping with “the principle of equal and inherent human rights and the ethical principles of the medical profession.”
Oregon was the first U.S. state to legalize assisted suicide in 1994. A popular referendum legalized the practice in Washington in 2008, and Montana's Supreme Court declared it legal in 2010.