George A. Sprecace M.D.,
J.D., F.A.C.P. and Allergy Associates of New
ZENIT, The world seen from Rome
Cardinal Sean O'Malley Lauds Defeated Suicide Bill
Boston Prelate Speaks on Responsibility to Protect Weak, Vulnerable
By Ann Schneible
WASHINGTON DC, NOVEMBER 14, 2012 (Zenit.org).- In his address to the
fall assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Monday, Cardinal Sean O'Malley praised the successful efforts to defeat
which would have legalized physician-assisted suicide of terminally ill
patients in the State of Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts' Ballot Initiative on physician-assisted
defeated by a narrow in the November 6 election. The measure would have
legalized physician-assisted suicide in the State of Massachusetts for
terminally ill patients. The dioceses of Massachusetts joined forces
religious groups to defeat the proposed law.
Also opposed to the measure where the Massachusetts Medical Society,
Massachusetts Hospice and Palliative Care Federation, and the American
physician-assisted suicide, Cardinal O'Malley told the assembly
moral and ethical threat to society, the medical profession, the
community and the common good. It brings spiritual death, a cheapening
life, and a corrupting of the medical profession. During the course of
preaching and speaking about this issue, I often cited the Hippocratic
'do no harm'.
Although the measure to legalize assisted suicide was defeated, the
nonetheless called to become more focused on the fact that we must do
promote good palliative and hospice care at the end of life.
The Church has always been committed to compassionate and dignified end
care, he said. We must work with our hospice care and palliative care
communities to continue to provide quality of care for the terminally
of tremendous pain is advanced as a reason to support
suicide. In almost every instance palliative care can suppress
The Cardinal also reminded the assembly that people already have the
refuse burdensome, life-extending treatments. They also have the option
leaving advance directives to determine their care when they are no
to express their wishes. The death that results from withholding or
of life-sustaining treatment has always been separated by a bright line
active measures to cause death.
Assisted suicide proponents seek to blur this line, he said.
Protecting the Weak and Vulnerable
In preventing this measure from being passed, however, the
prelate emphasized the importance of providing pastoral and medical
terminally patients. Just as in our struggle against abortion, it is
simply to condemn abortion, but we need to help to take care of the
lives are in turmoil because of a pregnancy. In the same way, we need
out to those facing difficulties at the end of life.
In answer to proponents of the measure who say physician-assisted
suicide is an
act of compassion towards the suffering, Cardinal O'Malley replied: We
called to comfort the sick, not to help them take their own lives. As
Catholic Bishops of the United States said in their recent statement on
assisted suicide: 'True compassion alleviates suffering while
with those who suffer.'
Legalized assisted suicide, the cardinal said, could open the door to
of further abuses, such as a decrease in the quality of life for the
and the disabled. There is also concern such a law could lead to an
I do not think it is an accident that Oregon, one of two states to
physician-assisted suicide, has one of the highest suicide rates
United States, he said.
By opposing the measure, Cardinal O'Malley said, the Catholic dioceses
Massachusetts opposition to physician-assisted suicide was not a
of partisan politics, it was simply the exercising of our right to
to the exchange of ideas that the Constitution of the United States
The Church performs an important service by weighing in on moral and
We are all called to work for a more just society where the weak and
vulnerable are nurtured and protected.
The cardinal concluded: We will be judged by how we treat those who are
the infirm. They need our care and protection, not lethal drugs. Let us
together to build a civilization of love – a love which is stronger
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