How to Vote Catholic 2012
“Intentional euthanasia, whatever its forms or motives, is murder. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator” (CCC 2324).
The Church views euthanasia and assisted suicide as the direct killing of a human being and, therefore, an immoral act. There once was a solid moral and legal consensus opposing it. But over the past two decades, tragically, some state laws in the U. S. have been changing to now permit the deliberate taking of life of someone terminally ill.
Two states – Oregon and Washington – have laws permitting physician-assisted suicide. Three states – North Carolina, Utah, and Wyoming – have no statutes criminalizing assisted suicide. Thirty-four states still consider suicide a crime, while nine consider it a common law crime.
Support for euthanasia and assisted suicide is not a matter of prudential judgment—there are never any reasons that justify such killing: “Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable” (CCC 2277).
A Catholic politician, whether in a state legislature or in the Congress, who supports this practice is dissenting from a Church teaching that does not admit of any qualification. For example, it does not matter if a terminally ill patient asks to be euthanized, the Church forbids any Catholic from assenting to such a request.
Scrutinizing the position of Catholic politicians on this issue is just as important as abortion. What was once unthinkable—the state endorsement of euthanasia—became a reality when the state of Oregon enacted a law legalizing physician-assisted suicide in 1997. Since then, similar legislation has been introduced in other states. This is an initiative that every Catholic citizen and politician must oppose.
Those who have watched the spread of the culture of death since the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 were not surprised the same attitude that led to the legalization of abortion has opened the door to arguments in support of euthanasia.
The intrinsic dignity and sacredness of human life—the inalienable right to life—have been replaced by the primacy of personal preference and the protection of personal satisfaction and, even, mere pleasure.
In Evangelium Vitae (1995), John Paul II spoke directly to that issue: “When the prevailing tendency is to value life only to the extent that it brings pleasure and well-being, suffering seems like an unbearable setback, something from which one must be freed at all costs.”
Rather than subjectively ending the lives of those who suffer, John Paul II has said that true compassion calls us to share in their suffering. In so doing, we may use appropriate levels of palliative care—pain relief—as long as we do not remove their personal experiences of life and death.
The ban against euthanasia does not mean that care-givers and families cannot stop extraordinary medical procedures used to keep their loved ones alive. To reject such treatment is not euthanasia, “It is the refusal of ‘over-zealous’ treatment. Here, one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted” (CCC 2278).
Choosing to stop such treatment is a prudential judgment belonging to the patient’s family and the assisting physician. The need to make such judgments demonstrates how laws allowing euthanasia harm the relationship between doctors and patients. The Hippocratic Oath, taken by physicians since before the time of Christ, specifies that the physician “do no harm.”
The euthanasia option fundamentally changes the relationship between doctor and patient: Patients can no longer trust their doctors to absolutely seek life over death.
But, what if a patient seeks help in hastening his or her death? Some argue that this consent justifies what is known as assisted suicide. Yet, Church teaching is clear in its rejection of suicide ever being morally permissible, even under conditions of extreme suffering. “Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life . . . [and] is contrary to love for the living God” (CCC 2281).
Just as a person should not “put someone out of his misery” by means of euthanasia, he should not assist someone in committing suicide. They are among those acts that “are a supreme dishonor to the Creator” (Gaudium et Spes, 27).
Thus, along with abortion, a politician’s support for euthanasia disqualifies him or her from the Catholic vote.
- The ban against euthanasia and assisted suicide admit of no exception.
- Removing extraordinary means of supporting life is allowable as a prudential judgment.
- The growing acceptance of euthanasia and assisted suicide rests on the assumption that pain detracts from the value of life, which is always good.
By Deal Hudson, President of Catholic Advocate