Church leaders: Proposition 106 offers flawed logic, false compassion

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.”

Prop 106 site

Proposition 106 seeks to legalize physician-assisted suicide in the state of Colorado. The website votenoprop106.com allows people to pledge to vote “no” on Proposition 106, which the website calls a “fatally flawed measure.”

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.”

For More Information

Visit www.cocatholicconference.org and www.votenoprop106.com

COMING UP: Private: The antidote to physician-assisted suicide: Catholic end-of-life care

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Private: The antidote to physician-assisted suicide: Catholic end-of-life care

Divine Mercy Supportive Care offers hospice, palliative service

Miranda Smith brought her mom to Divine Mercy Supportive Care for hospice care. She said “wouldn’t give up those last moments with my mom for anything in the world.” (Photo by Andrew Wright | Denver Catholic)

When California’s Brittany Maynard, 29, was grabbing headlines in 2014 for her planned physician-assisted suicide to evade the last stages of brain cancer, Colorado’s Jane Smith, 50, was in the final throes of the same cancer.

Smith, however, chose a natural death so as to live every second of life God granted her.

Rather than turning to physician-assisted suicide, Jane and her family turned to their Catholic faith and the apostolate Divine Mercy Supportive Care, to make Jane’s transition to death and new life comfortable, peaceful and beautiful.

Her family says the precious final days they had with Jane and the love and courage it took for her to give them are an incomparable gift.

“I wouldn’t give up those last moments with my mom for anything in the world,” daughter Miranda Smith, a college student, said in a video on end-of-life care (www.dmsci.org/press/palliative-care). “I can’t imagine not having that at all.”

Divine Mercy Supportive Care offers hospice (end-of-life care) and palliative (medical treatment and comfort care) service guided by the US bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERD’s). When the Smiths, parishioners at St. Thomas More in Centennial, knew Jane was near the end of her life, they researched hospices.

“We found Divine Mercy and knew right away it was exactly what we were looking for,” Miranda wrote about the organization, which serves non-Catholics as well. “[Mom] was surrounded by safety and faith and love.”

Divine Mercy was recently sanctioned by Community Health Accreditation Partner (CHAP), which affirms it meets the health care industry’s highest nationally recognized standards. It is also certified as a Medicare provider.

“When you put those together—those ERD’s along with the CHAP accreditation—you have a hospice that does things very differently,” said Kevin Lundy, Divine Mercy’s president and CEO. Offering an example he said, “Our chaplaincy program is different in that they are priests, not just because we are Catholic but because we are trying to provide the highest degree of excellence.”

That the organization is a nonprofit, he said, allows it to be “mission focused rather than profit focused.

“When you’re a nonprofit,” he added, “you have no responsibility to shareholders, but to the public to do a public good.”

That public good extends to helping to build a culture of life by educating the public on ethical end-of-life care through consultations, training and talks. Divine Mercy also helped to defeat two physician-assisted suicide bills in Colorado the past two years. But the physician-assisted suicide movement is back in the state again with ballot issues under way.

“Both sides are being compassionate in saying they don’t want people to suffer,” Lundy notes in the end-of-life care video, which was produced by the Denver Archdiocese. “As Catholics we don’t believe that hastening death is necessary to allow a person to die in peace and comfort.”

Hospice, Lundy said, is the antidote to physician-assisted suicide.

Had Jane Smith ended her life prematurely with physician-assisted suicide, he noted, she and her family would have been denied the knowledge of how profoundly beautiful the dying experience can be. Hospice, he added, is a gift of time that allows for reconciliation, for goodbyes, for treasured last experiences and for peace of mind that a loved one lived their life to its natural end.

The Smith family agrees.

“Divine Mercy was one of the greatest blessings to our family,” wrote Miranda Smith, who was so grateful for their service that she served as an intern for the organization the summer after her mother’s death.

“In that last month of her life Divine Mercy not only supported my mother but also our family,” she continued. “We all had the comfort of knowing that we were doing all that we could to make her time on earth as peaceful and joyful as possible.”

 

Divine Mercy Supportive Care

Online: www.dmsci.org

Address: 303 S. Broadway Blvd., Ste. 220, Denver, CO 80209

Phone: 303-357-2540

Email: info@dmsci.org