09 Feb Timothy Cardinal Dolan will fight bill for assisted suicide – NY Daily News
ALBANY – Asserting that physician-assisted suicide is not “death with dignity,” Timothy Cardinal Dolan says the Church is launching an aggressive fight against efforts in New York to legalize the practice.
“The real death with dignity, the real heroes are those who die naturally, who take each day at a time, savoring everything they’ve got. That is death with dignity,” Dolan said in an exclusive interview with the Daily News.
New York’s archbishop said he and the state’s other bishops view the issue as a “high priority.”
Dolan’s campaign comes as a bill to legalize assisted suicide is being introduced in the legislature and after three terminally ill patients in New York last week sued the state to spare doctors who give “aid in dying” from prosecution.
Dolan said he wasn’t surprised by the suit, noting that often when the political will is not there to pass a law, people have taken to the courts to try to force change, he said.
“Whenever there’s something that would affect the dignity of the human person or the sacredness of human life, it’s not surprising that believers would rise up to defend those two principles,” he said.
The state Catholic Conference that is headed by Dolan has created a new website – http://www.catholicendoflife.org – to be unveiled Monday designed to serve as a resource to Catholics in New York and nationally regarding end-of-life decisions.
Though in the works before the right-to-die debate cropped up in New York, Dolan hopes it will shape the conversation by educating people on the options they face in their dying days.
He said the Catholics are not alone in opposing physician assisted suicide. Evangelical Christians, Latter-day Saints, the Greek Orthodox, and Orthodox Jews, also oppose the idea.
“There’s going to be a whole interfaith coalition to help oppose this,” Dolan said.
Dolan accused supporters of the measure of trying to make it more palatable to the public by calling it “death with dignity” much in the way the pro-abortion movement adopted the phrase “pro-choice.”
“The other side often has better marketing,” Dolan said. “They have better slogans and sound bites.”
Dolan says the Catholic Church does not preach that dying people be required to take extraordinary measures to stay alive. But once refusing further treatment, they can avail themselves to palliative care, like hospice.
“If people want to talk about death with dignity, let’s talk about fortifying a magnificent service like hospice,” he said.
Assisted suicides devalue human life, he added.
“The believing community, by that I mean Christians and Jews, would have a philosophical problem with that,” Dolan 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.”.
He cited the words of Pope John Paul II, who spoke of a culture of death.
“I’m just afraid of cheapening human life,” Dolan said. “There’s a great move in contemporary society to make one’s worth and dignity synonymous with one’s ability to produce, achieve and be useful.
“When we move in that direction, the weak and the fragile will always be left behind.”
People who are diagnosed with months to live can often defy expectations and their judgment can be clouded by fear and depression, he said.
The battle is set to be fought on two stages – the statehouse and courtrooms.
The News reported in December that state Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) was introducing a “Death With Dignity Act” to make New York the fifth state to allow physician-assisted suicide. Sen. Diane Savino (D—Staten Island) is signing on as a co-sponsor to the bill that could be introduced as soon as Monday.
Hoylman said he was moved by the case of Brittany Maynard, the terminally ill California woman who became the public face of the right-to-die movement when she moved to Oregon to end her life under that state’s “Death With Dignity Act.”
Maynard, who had an aggressive form of brain cancer, took her life on Nov. 1.
An Assembly “Death With Dignity” bill has already been introduced by Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) and referred to the chamber’s Health Committee.
“When an individual has a terminal illness, the effects are often debilitating, filled with discomfort and agony,” she wrote in a bill sponsor memo. “Even with the assistance of palliative care doctors and supportive groups, it is common for patients to never feel relief or reach a level of comfort in which to die peacefully.”
Assisted suicide is currently legal in Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana. States like New Jersey and California have been debating the issue.
Dolan fears if assisted suicide is legalized, terminally ill people, fearing they’ve become a burden, could be pressured into ending their lives prematurely by their families, doctors, or insurance companies.
“We feel we’ve got political wisdom on our side,” he said, noting that a more than two-decade old study of the issue done under then Gov. Mario Cuomo- the current governor’s father- came out against allowing assisted suicide.
He said the Church also has the medical community on its side. The American Medical Association opposes physician-assisted suicide. An opinion on the AMA website says that the practice is “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as a healer.”
“Right now when a doctor walks into a room, a patient has a sense of hope – ‘here’s somebody to help me,’” he said. “If a doctor becomes an agent of someone who wants to end things – no wonder the medical profession is against it.”
The Cardinal said the opponents of assisted suicide must remain vigilant given New York’s history on socially progressive issues like abortion and gay marriage.
“We know that the climate among some leadership is to promote the kind of things that we find abhorrent,” he said. “We’re afraid the climate might be somewhat hospitable to what we consider would be a very lethal movement.”