Let’s Not Play God

Last December, State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) introduced a “Death With Dignity Act” which would make New York the fifth state in the country to allow physician-assisted suicide. This bill is gaining support from other politicians in our area as well.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, along with the Bishops of the New York State, and the New York State Catholic Conference are leading the charge against the passage of any legislation that would permit euthanasia, the so-called “mercy killing,” in New York.

This is, of course, a highly emotional issue. No one wants to see anyone suffer. We all want to see our loved ones have their final days in dignity and peace. But this issue is far more than just simply one of emotion.

Mercy killing devalues human life. Cardinal Dolan, in an interview with the New York Daily News points out the truth about this seemingly kind act. The cardinal states: “The believing community, by that I mean Christians and Jews, would have a philosophical problem with that,” he said. “There are certain things we don’t choose – that would be the beginning and end of life. We believe the Lord has dominion over that.”

God gives life and only God in His wisdom can determine when life ends. When we see someone suffering and dying, we, as human beings, can only have one legitimate response – to give palliative care, to accompany them (to use a phrase that Pope Francis is fond of using) in these last days of our lives.

We need to educate ourselves on this issue. There is a great website to learn exactly what euthanasia really is and what we as Catholics believe about this issue: http://www.catholicendoflife.org. This site can help us understand the legal, moral and ethical implications of this issue. We urge all of our parishes to place this web address in their bulletins and to inform their parishioners about the danger of physician-assisted suicide.

It’s essential that we know exactly what the issue is, that we can understand it in our perspective as Christians. It’s not merely an issue – as proponents of mercy killing will tell us – of personal dignity. No, it’s an attempt to play God and assume the role of our Creator – to give life and to take life. It is a basic violation of the Fifth Commandment, “You shall not kill.”

The cardinal points out in his interview that even the American Medical Association (AMA) is against mercy killing. The AMA website states that physician-assisted suicide is “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as a healer.” The cardinal also points out that we even have the wisdom of politicians over the years in New York to back us up against euthanasia; Governor Mario Cuomo was against physician-assisted suicide while in office. We can also look to the dangers that could occur if physician-assisted suicide is legalized, among which are some of the following:

• Can the individual, wracked in pain and emotionally distraught, make the conscious decision himself or herself? If not, who will legitimately make that decision?

• Will the individual, perhaps feeling himself or herself a burden on the family and friends, actually be pressed into this terrible decision to end his or her life by doctors and insurance companies? Will the high cost of medicine actually contribute to the number of physician-assisted suicides?

The funds that are being used to support this bill can best be used for the support of hospice care, where the dying can receive the care that they need to make their final days peaceful and fulfilled. Cardinal Dolan stated: “I’m just afraid of cheapening human life… When we move in that direction, the weak and the fragile will always be left behind.”

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