TO THE EDITOR:
On April 9 the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on HB5572, a bill disingenuously entitled the Lila Sapinsly Compassionate Care Act. “Compassionate care” to end a life is nothing other than doctor assisted suicide. If assisted suicide for terminally ill patients is legalized it is not hard to imagine that the criteria of terminal illness will expand in a few years. Since the legalization of assisted suicide in Oregon in 1998 there have been many unintended and dangerous consequences. The criteria inevitably expands to include new categories of people, subjecting ever-increasing numbers to deadly harm through mistakes, abuse and coercion.
The definition of terminal illness in proposed legislation is arbitrary and includes patients who are not dying, as has happened in Oregon. For example, if a patient who has diabetes does not take medication, that patient is terminal and eligible for lethal drugs.
Assisted Suicide laws invite abuse and misuse. Once assisted suicide is legalized, economic incentives will deprive patients of lifesaving treatment because the provision of lethal drugs is much cheaper. Elder abuse is a major health problem already and making lethal drugs available generates additional risk to elder persons. The promotion of suicide for the terminally ill in states that have legalized assisted suicide has led to increased suicides in the general population. Psychiatric illness is entirely subjective and suffering can be caused or amplified both by social injustices and the actual mental disorder, posing a massive challenge to assessment.
The Bishops of the USSCB state that intentionally hastening death, whether through drugs or deliberate neglect of basic care, offends our God-given dignity and is never morally permissible.
Lisa Cooley, Coordinator, Diocese of Providence Office of Life and Family
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