(OSV News) – When California relaxes its physician-assisted death laws in 2021 – making it easier for residents to take their own lives – some say lawyer after changing the will to help the sick, asking for a kind of law that is independent.
The result – reported in the California Department of Public Health’s “End of Life Option Act 2022 Data Report,” released this July – was a 63% increase in requests for life-ending drugs, and 853 always dead.
But the high numbers are not only about Catholic ethicists, advocates and doctors. It is the speed of behavior that is contributing to a cultural – and even medical – movement away from saving lives.
“Justifying physician-assisted living is just the first step in legalizing the lie that there is such a thing as life that is not worth living,” said the father Tad Pacholczyk, senior researcher at the National Catholic Bioethics Center.
“By labeling the sick or disabled in this way, we quickly find ourselves ‘buying the price.’ How much disability or disease is enough to qualify a person for divorce? How much disability is allowed on this slippery slope?” Father Pacholczyk asked. “Instead of tempting the sick to kill himself, we need to increase the true love and support of the sick or the dying.”
He said, “There are many things that can be done to help the needy or hopeless. If patients are suffering, we should end the suffering, not the patient.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities wrote in a fact sheet, “Assisted homicide is a deadly combination with our health care system.”
The term physician-assisted death is an umbrella term that includes both physician-assisted homicide and physician-assisted euthanasia. In the murder of a doctor, the doctor orders the poison but the patient administers the medicine. In physician-assisted euthanasia, the physician administers the drug prescribed to kill the patient.
Currently, nine states – California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Washington – and the District of Columbia have enacted “assisted dying” laws that allow physician-assisted homicide. In Montana, the provision is made legal by a court decision that is appealed with each legislative session.
Three other states – Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania – have their own “medical aid in dying” laws pending.
In total, 40 states allow physician-assisted suicide, while the federal government and 50 states prohibit euthanasia as a form of homicide.
Worldwide, it is estimated that 200 million people live in countries with some form of medically assisted dying.
California’s End-of-Life Law was first introduced in 2016. At the time, there was a limit: terminally ill patients were required to make two oral requests for life-ending drugs, 15 days apart. separately. In 2021, however, a bill was introduced and passed to change this and more.
When the revised law goes into effect on January 1, 2022, California’s wait time for prescription drugs will be shortened to 48 hours.
Between 2016-2022, 5,168 people were prescribed poison under the law, with 3,349 people, or 64.8%, taking poison and dying.
“Despite the increase in numbers in California, the same information is a wonderful reason for hope that few people are looking for this, although it is encouraged by the state,” said William Mattison, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. , told OSV News. “And a little more goes with it. There’s a lot of it, but there’s a beautiful sign about human resilience and the will to live.
The California Catholic Association is concerned that the numbers presented do not provide an accurate picture of the overall impact of physician-assisted living.
“The data on the End of Life Option Act in California shows that it is used more by a very small segment of the population: white, college-educated, married men,” said Kathleen Domingo, director CCC management, told OSV News.
However, noting the diversity of California’s population, Domingo noted, “There is no other part of our state – no other program – nothing that represents this narrow segment of the population .It definitely sends up red flags.
In response, “the council will work with a broad group of people concerned with disability rights, care for the elderly and support for Latino families to petition the Department of Public Health of California for great experience with data collection and data reporting,” said Domingo. “We want to make sure we know how the law works and what opportunities there are to find protections for vulnerable communities.”
Father Pacholczyk insisted on the same treatment.
“Members of the disability community see the handwriting on the wall, and they know the pressure is mounting to make an early exit,” he explained. “Smoke signals emanating from respected institutions such as professional medical organizations, health care systems, insurance companies and the courts suggest that twilight is poised to give way to the dark,” said Father Pacholczyk.
In the US Catholic Bishops’ 1998 statement “Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics,” the bishops explained that “euthanasia and assisted killing are never acceptable. They always use pain and essentially, to end life in the name of the ‘good of life’ itself.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that killing and euthanasia are not permitted, but it separates these actions from the legitimate options to end “medical procedures that are painful, horrible, extraordinary, or similar without the expected result. … Here no one wants to die; Man’s inability to interfere is simply accepted.
David Elliot, adjunct professor of cultural studies and ethics at The Catholic University of America in Washington, told OSV News that the concerns of disability advocates are “very reasonable.”
“Some of them have actually said that almost every problem that comes up justifying health assistance is the result of disability – reduced health; reduced physical autonomy, ” he explained. “They said it’s not disability issues; Are you saying that health isn’t worth it?”
Elliot illustrates his point with a hypothetical example.
“If a young and well-off person pleads to take life, the state says, ‘No, you’re wrong to think your life is not worth living,'” he said. “But if an elderly, seriously ill, frail person asks, the state really says, ‘You have the right to think that your life is not worth living – and we will help you end it.'”
The state of Oregon, Elliot recalled, had already created a type of “exit interview” for those who were about to take their own lives through physician-assisted death.
“The real reasons that people say — physical pain is low on the list,” Elliot said.
“There is a kind of irony in the fact that we have had these centuries and no one thought for a second about the creation of the ability to kill people,” he noted. “But now that we have the best pain management, pain relief, and medical technology in human history — people can suddenly say the pain is unbearable.”
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Kimberley Heatherington writes for OSV News from Virginia.
The increase in California contributed to the number of murders of Catholics started in OSV News.