Colorado’s bishops say Proposition 106 is simply “illogical.”
The state’s suicide rate is the seventh highest in the nation, which led lawmakers to found a prevention commission in 2014 and a state office this year to implement a “zero suicide” plan. Yet Proposition 106 on the Nov. 8 ballot seeks to legalize physician assisted suicide.
“It is our hope that the voters of Colorado recognize the flawed logic of those supporting this effort,” the bishops say on the Colorado Catholic Conference website. “Namely that it is illogical for the state to promote and/or facilitate suicide for one group of persons, calling the suicides of those with a terminal illness and a specific prognosis ‘dignified and humane,’ while recognizing suicide as a serious statewide public health concern in all other circumstances, and spending enormous resources to combat it.”
The conference is the state-level, public policy agency of the Church. Through it Denver’s Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and Bishop-elect Jorge Rodriguez, Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan and Pueblo Bishop Stephen Berg, speak with a united voice.
“It’s disingenuous and hard to believe that Colorado voters would want to do anything that would promote what is already a horrible epidemic the state faces,” said conference executive director Jenny Kraska.
Proposition 106 would allow any “mentally capable” adult Coloradan with a terminal illness and a prognosis of six months or less to live, to get a prescription from a doctor for medication to kill themselves.
“It’s a bad piece of legislation,” Kraska said. “It has bad ramifications for Colorado, its families, the poor and vulnerable. It’s rife with problems.”
[…] It is illogical for the state to promote and/or facilitate suicide for one group of persons, calling the suicides of those with a terminal illness and a specific prognosis ‘dignified and humane,’ while recognizing suicide as a serious statewide public health concern in all other circumstances, and spending enormous resources to combat it.”
Among them is that while the ballot initiative says a person has to be mentally competent to get the prescription, that competence can be determined by any doctor.
“It doesn’t have to be a psychologist,” Kraska explained. “It doesn’t even have to be their doctor—it can be anybody who has any type of medical degree. That’s extraordinarily troublesome.”
And while Colorado’s physician assisted suicide act is for the terminally ill, passing such a law could be the start down a slippery slope as evidenced by places where it’s legal.
“Physician assisted suicide started in Belgium and the Netherlands with the intent for people at the end-of-life,” Kraska said. “Now it’s turned into euthanasia for children of any age, and euthanasia and assisted suicide for almost any reason at all.”
Catholic teaching prohibits suicide as going against God’s commandment to not kill.
“The bishops of Colorado have been very clear on this issue,” Kraska said. “This is not something (the Church) will ever support. We also recognize the great suffering some people go through at the end of their life. … But the compassionate answer is not to just commit suicide, the compassionate answer is, let’s have a discussion about what is available for people at the end of their life, like hospice and palliative care.
“With today’s medical advances,” she added, “there is no reason for anyone to be in excruciating pain.”
In their statement on assisted suicide, the US bishops promote hospice and palliative care as solutions that affirm a person’s human dignity and value and offer true compassion by meeting their physical, emotional and spiritual needs at the end of life, rather than abandoning them to suicide.
Those opposed to assisted suicide include medical professionals who see it as going against their mission to heal, and disability rights advocates who see it as a threat to their dignity and right to life.
Windsor resident Carrie Ann Lucas, an attorney and founder of Disabled Parents’ Rights and board member of Not Dead Yet, wrote a guest column in The Denver Post about her opposition.
“I have a terminal condition — very much like ALS — and if assisted suicide were legal, I would qualify. This legislation directly threatens me, my family and my community. Much like terminally ill patients, we are vulnerable and can see how legalizing assisted suicide puts us at risk. That’s why most disability organizations oppose legalization of assisted suicide.
“In a profit-driven health care system,” she continued, “people will die needlessly when insurance companies refuse to pay for necessary medications and equipment, and instead offer to pay for a much cheaper lethal prescription. We’ve already seen that happen in Oregon, where this is legal. We know that suicide is cheaper than treatment.”
Kraska cautions people to not be fooled by the euphemisms “end-of-life options,” “medical aid in dying” or “death with dignity” used by the ballot initiative supporters “to mask what it is—assisted suicide.”
“True death with dignity is allowing nature to take its course in a natural way,” Kraska said. “Not feeling compelled to take your life.”