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14 th in the Series of Webinars Produced by the National Catholic Partnership on Disability.

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Presentation on theme: "14 th in the Series of Webinars Produced by the National Catholic Partnership on Disability."— Presentation transcript:

1 14 th in the Series of Webinars Produced by the National Catholic Partnership on Disability

2 Moderator:  Jerry Freewalt, Program Director, Office for Social Concerns, Diocese of Columbus Presenters:  Richard Doerflinger, Associate Director, Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops  Fr. Dan Mindling, OFM Cap., Academic Dean & Moral Theologian, Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary  Sr. Janice McGrane, SSJ, Author, presenter, disability rights activist

3 To ask questions of panel members by computer:  Write your questions in the space provided at the bottom of your screen  Click ‘submit’

4 Loving God. We ask for your blessing as we work to build a culture of life. Give us loving hearts that we may show true compassion to those who are suffering and near death. Give us just hearts to respect the inherent dignity of all. And grant us the wisdom, strength, and courage to protect and defend the gift of human life in all its stages. Amen


6  1987 – 1992: Attempts fail in California, Washington  Assisted suicide measure finally approved in Oregon in 1994. Keys to the measure’s approval: ◦ Limited to physician-assisted suicide (PAS) (no lethal injections by doctors) ◦ Focus on (alleged) “safeguards” ◦ Anti-religious sentiment

7 Carves out a class of people—those expected by a doctor to have less than six months to live—who can obtain a lethal dose and kill themselves  Death certificate falsified  Never counted as a suicide  Doctor prescribing the drug controls all reporting

8  Hemlock officials predicted cross-country sweep  The reality:  Referenda defeated in Michigan and Maine  Legalization proposals defeated in all other state legislatures  From 1994 to 2004, at least 13 new state laws passed to BAN assisted suicide or strengthen old laws (GA, IA, KS, KY, LA, MD, OH, OK, RI, SC, SD, TN, VA)  1997: U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld laws against PAS as valid

9  Hemlock Society “grows up”: New funding and sophistication; run not by activists but by attorneys, nurses, etc. (Kevorkian and Humphry edged out)  Careful, nationally coordinated selection of venues: Unchurched and libertarian segments of Northwest and New England (Washington, New Hampshire, Vermont)  Hemlock’s new gentler name: “Compassion and Choices” (allowing infiltration of medical and hospice groups, “living will” policy discussions, health care reform) Hemlock Society, a.k.a.:

10  USCCB assistance to states facing proposals (analysis and advice, help in raising funds, educational materials)  Coalition building: National Catholic Partnership on Disability, Nightingale Alliance, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, Not Dead Yet and other disability rights advocates, Patients Rights Council, sympathetic medical groups and experts, etc.  Bishops’ statement making the case against legalization and mobilizing Catholic community

11  Begins and ends by acknowledging people’s fears about the dying process, and supporting genuine solutions  Recounts policy background and the revival of this debate  A radical change in society – opposed not only by Catholic teaching but by many religions, moral concerns of millions, Hippocratic oath undergirding medicine as a profession  Proponents evade seriousness of issue through euphemism

12  Most people who attempt suicide suffer from depression and mental disturbance – they need to be freed from these influences  Undue influence and pressure from a society that has officially declared the suicides of some people to be good and acceptable, unlike suicides by others, negatively impacts decisions  Our first right is life itself – undermining the value of some people’s lives will undermine respect for their freedom as well

13 True “com-passion” — “suffering with” the patient and dedicating oneself to meeting his or her needs, presupposes a commitment to the equal worth of that person. “True ‘compassion’ leads to sharing another's pain; it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear.” John Paul II, EV 66

14  “Compassion” not rooted in such respect for the person inevitably finds more and more cases where suffering is serious enough to justify assisted death  Can increase suffering by worsening the emotional and spiritual suffering of feeling worthless and “a burden,” and by undermining commitment to palliative care

15  Statement ends by advancing what Blessed John Paul II called “the way of love and true mercy”  A call for Catholics to work with others to uphold the right of each of us to live with dignity to the end of our days: “We can help build a world in which love is stronger than death.”

16  November 2010: Vermont widely seen as next domino to fall; legislature and new governor supported legalization. Liberal state with libertarian profile; those opposing assisted suicide developed a strategic plan.  A credible non-denominational voice already in place: Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, founded by Dr. Robert Orr. Close collaboration with disability rights community.  New grassroots organization, True Dignity Vermont.  Campaign for educating legislators and constituents: letter writing; TV ads and public access TV; speaking tour of Catholic deaneries Outcome: NO action on legalization bill in Vermont in 2010

17  Join debate for responsible policy, using non-religious arguments in public arena  Dismantle euphemisms, “tell it like it is”  Collaborate with concerned medical and disability/senior advocates  Offer positive solutions grounded in the equal dignity of all, especially poor and vulnerable

18 To Each Day with Dignity Resources To Live Each Day with Dignity Resources


20 “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.” CCC 2283


22 Insights from Evangelium Vitae… “To concur with the intention of another person to commit suicide and to help in carrying it out through so-called ‘assisted suicide’ means to cooperate in, and at times to be the actual perpetrator of, an injustice which can never be excused, even if it is requested.” 66

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