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HomePerspectiveArchbishop AquilaAssisted-suicide bill is bad medicine

Assisted-suicide bill is bad medicine

On Tuesday, January 27 lawmakers took the first step toward legalizing physician-assisted suicide in Colorado when they introduced House Bill 1135.

At a press conference organized by supporters of the bill, Julie Selsberg spoke about the case of her father, Charlie Selsberg, who was suffering from Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) and decided to starve himself to death. Charlie needed the best medical care and he needed people who understood the dying process and could help compassionately him with his struggles.

But legalizing doctor-prescribed suicide won’t give people like Charlie any of those things, despite the rhetoric being used to describe it as “death with dignity.” What it will do is hamper efforts to create better care for the terminally ill and vulnerable.

The reality is that Colorado already has a suicide problem, and legalizing physician-assisted suicide will only make giving in to despair and coercion easier. In 2012, for example, there were 1,052 people who committed suicide, 457 people who died in motor vehicle accidents, and 205 people who were homicide victims. We need to discourage suicide, not promote it.

Making it legal for health care providers and pharmacists to intentionally give something harmful to a patient will also corrupt one of the essential principles of medicine – “do no harm.” Every doctor swears to apply this principle when he takes the Hippocratic Oath, but making assisted-suicide legal would make a mockery of their oath.

Finally, Coloradans must oppose HB 1135 because it attacks life and makes it easier for people who stand to gain from coercing the mentally ill or those who are vulnerable into asking for death.

That this legislation is contrary to the Catholic faith is obvious, given our belief that the dignity of life should be respected at every stage. HB 1135 should be dismissed because it discourages truly compassionate medical care, it will make Colorado’s suicide problem worse, it will undermine the ethical foundations of medicine, and it will open an avenue for taking advantage of the vulnerable.

On Friday, Feb. 6 the assisted-suicide bill will be heard in the House Public Health Care & Human Services Committee. I urge all of you to contact the members of that committee, your local state representatives and to write letters to the editor. I urge the laity to attend the meeting and let the committee see that many people oppose assisted-suicide.

>> To contact lawmakers, click here<<

When St. John Paul II arrived at Denver International Airport in 1993 he reminded us that “the ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones.” I pray that you will join me in making sure that Colorado becomes a state where ethical medicine is upheld, where the despairing find hope, where the vulnerable are protected, and where the culture of life is promoted.

For more information on HB 1135, please visit the Colorado Catholic Conference website here.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila
The Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila is the eighth bishop of Denver and its fifth archbishop. His episcopal motto is, "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5).
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