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Cardinal Tobin, New Jersey Bishops Denounce Assisted Suicide Act

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, N.J., gives the homily during a Mass at which he took possession of his titular church of St. Mary of the Graces in Rome Jan. 29. (Photo: CNS/Paul Haring)

The Tablet Staff

As of August 1, a New Jersey law has gone into effect allowing residents over 18 to request medical assistance in dying by receiving a prescription for lethal medication, if they have a terminal diagnosis of six months or less to live.

According to CNN, in April of 2018 Catholic New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed the Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act, which requires for patients to speak with a psychiatrist or psychologist to determine their mental capacity to self-administer the pill at home. 

“After careful consideration, internal reflection and prayer, I have concluded that, while my faith may lead me to a particular decision for myself, as a public official I cannot deny this alternative to those who may reach a different conclusion,” Murphy said upon signing the law earlier this year.

New Jersey has now become the eight state that allows medically assisted suicide, something that all of the state’s Catholic bishops are denouncing. 

“We must be clear. What legislatures now refer to as ‘death with dignity’ is legal permission for one to end their own life with a lethal overdose of prescription drugs. This new state law has become an answer to addressing one’s fear of affliction or suffering,” said Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, Archbishop of Newark in a written statement on August 1. 

Cardinal Tobin also noted that the law now puts immense pressure on Catholics in health care ministries to follow their conscience, instead of being coerced into providing assistance that is immoral. 

According to NBC, under the new law two doctors must sign off on the patient’s request for medically assisted suicide. Patients must request the lethal medication twice, with one of the requests being written and signed by two witnesses. The patient will then also be given an opportunity to rescind their decision.

Cardinal Tobin called for remembrance of the sanctity of life from conception to natural death. “Our Holy Father reminds us that we must never take a human life—even, or especially, our own, since ‘this is a sin against God, the creator,’” he wrote, turning to the words of Pope Francis.

In a July 29 Pastoral Letter, Bishop James Checchio of Metuchen, New Jersey noted how the new legislation will also pressure on older state residents. 

“With this new law, the elderly could feel undue pressure to view this as an option to prevent being a burden to others, and young people will begin to think that people can and should be disposable,” Bishop Checchio wrote. 

Cardinal Tobin’s letter acknowledged that concern, stating that “dying patients who request euthanasia should receive loving care, psychological and spiritual support, and appropriate remedies for pain and other symptoms so they can live with dignity until the time of natural death.”