Fr. Tom, 09-25-16

Dear Loyola Parishioners & Visitors,
The Archbishop has “instructed” priests and deacons to preach in opposition to Prop 106 [Allow Physician- Assisted Suicide in Colorado] for three consecutive Sundays in October. Towards this end, the Knights of Columbus have printed and made available yard signs in opposition to Prop 106.

Of course the Bishops are opposed to Physician-Assisted Suicide, they would not be good bishops if they were not. With exceptions, the Church always and everywhere opposes the taking of human life. So, besides that the Church says so, why else might one oppose physician-assisted suicide as a matter of public policy?

In 2008 Barbara Wagner sought chemotherapy for late stage lung cancer. The Oregon Health Plan office refused to authorize the $4,000 per month treatment because it was not approved for her condition, but listed among the services it would pay for were prescription drugs to end her life. “To say to someone, we’ll pay for you to die, but not for you to live; it’s cruel,” Wagner told the Eugene Register-Guard. Ms. Wagner was not the only one to receive such letters from the Oregon Health Plan office. Thus, there exists a real risk that public and/or private health insurance providers would change their covered services in light of a change in State law.

As recently as June 2016, the American Medical Association reaffirmed its opposition to physician-assisted suicide. “It is understandable, though tragic, that some patients in extreme duress—such as those suffering from a terminal, painful, debilitating illness—may come to decide that death is preferable to life. However, permitting physicians to engage in assisted suicide would ultimately cause more harm than good. Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”

As I begin forming my conscience around this issue, I find myself seeking out more information about the reality of physician-assisted suicide, others’ experiences in states with similar laws, and the opinion of medical and pharmacological experts. Of course, I pray and consider the Church’s teaching as well; but the Church seeks to appeal to people of goodwill with its social teaching and to do so requires both an appeal to Church teaching and Christian ethics in order to be authentic witnesses of who we are but it also requires of us an appeal to the human sciences and opinion of a wide-range of experts on the questions before us.

Fr. Tom