A physician-assisted suicide initiative failed in Washington State in 1991. Similar attempts to pass assisted suicide legislation have failed in 25 other states.
In 2008, Washington voters were again faced with an assisted suicide initiative. The passing of the so-called “Death with Dignity” initiative (I-1000) made Washington only the second state, after Oregon, to legalize physician-assisted suicide. The initiative proposed a fundamental change in civil law that allows physicians to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients who request them.
The Church teaches that our obligation is to nurture and support life, but never to harm or destroy it. Our teaching distinguishes between killing—which is an intentional action or omission to bring about the death of another, and allowing to die—which is withholding or withdrawing treatment that is no longer helping a patient and may actually be harming them. The morality of any action is judged by one’s intention. In the case of assisted suicide, the intention is to cause the death of another person.
Human beings are by nature social and interdependent. No one person’s freedom is absolute. Individual freedom must be weighed against the needs of the common good, which should be reflected in our laws. Therefore, our laws should enable us to live together in society, upholding our common values, and protecting vulnerable and defenseless people.
Death will come to us all at some point, and when that time comes, if healing is no longer possible, then patients should be provided good palliative (comfort) care. Instead of seeking ways to end lives, we should strive, as compassionate people, to seek life-giving ways to care for dying persons among us.
For more information on the issue of physician-assisted suicide and Initiative 1000, see the following:
Deacon Bill Haines & Gina Haines Homily to St. Louise de Marillac Parish, Bellevue, WA, October 19, 2008.
Sister Francine Barber's Reflections to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish, Woodinville, WA, October 11-12, 2008.
Read Fr. Gary Zender's Homily to St. Anthony Parish, Renton, Washington, October 4-5, 2008.
The National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD), representing over 14 million Catholics with disabilities in the United States, issued a statement in opposition to I-1000. "We oppose Initiative 1000 because its supporters aim to include people with disabilities and we emphatically reject assisted suicide as a response to disability."
-- We are called to a fullness of life that far exceeds the dimensions of our earthly existence.. "because it consists in sharing the very life of God."
Bishop of the Diocese of Spokane, Willam Skylstad, shares with us the sadness and beauty to be experienced and cherished as our loved ones' lives apporoach their natural end in Everything is grace. [English] [Spanish]
-- There are many truly compassionate alternatives to assisted suicide. Moreover, I-1000 short-circuits the natural, necessary, and healthy opportunities for reconciliation, healing, and acceptance at the end of life.
"Proposal is Reckless, Unnecessary" by Rheba de Tornyay, guest columnist to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "We can have death with dignity without enabling our physicians to sign death warrants. A dying person need no longer suffer the torments of pain, anxiety and depression or exchange the sanctuary of home for the rigors of a hospital."
-- I-1000 raises enormous societal and public policy implications. Remembering that which is legal becomes that which is moral.
Read Fr. Paul Pluth’s Homily to St. Anne Parish, Seattle, June 7, 2008.
Five Oregonians to Remember from Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation
Physician-assisted Suicide: The Wrong approach to End of Life Care by Michael Gloth, MD
Dying Well, Assisted Suicide, and the Law by M. Cathleen Kaveny, M.A., M. Phil., J.D., Ph.D
Not Dead Yet - Washington Blogspot
Analysis of Washington Assisted Suicide Initiative, I-1000 by Rita Marker, Executive Director, International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide
Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation statement for the BBC from Dr. William Toffler, PCCEF’s National Director