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Bishops oppose ‘Medical Aid in Dying Act’ in New York

Controversial legislation is ‘strongly opposed’ by Catholics across NYS

– By Gabriel Pietrorazio

This last weekend marks the 2020 New York State Bishops’ Conference Public Policy Weekend, which sought to show their strong opposition against the Medical Aid in Dying Act [A. 2694/ S. 3947], which is set to come before the New York state Assembly and Senate during this upcoming spring session.

The Medical Aid in Dying Act would “allow qualified, terminally-ill adult residents of New York to legally obtain a prescription from their physician for medications to end their life peacefully, in a dignified way, at the place and time of their choosing.”

The dual bills, both of which were introduced last year on January 28 in the Assembly and February 21 in the Senate are currently under consideration by both committees.

Co-sponsored by 40 Assembly-members and 13 Senators, the Medical Aid in Dying Act has gained traction through the Death with Dignity National Center, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that seeks to promote death with dignity laws based on their model legislation, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, the first bill nationwide to allow for physician-assisted suicide to pass on October 27, 1997.

The New York Alliance for Medical Aid in Dying was founded on April 17, 2018 as a subsidiary of the national center in an effort to build statewide support among legislators and residents alike.

In contrast, the New York State Catholic Conference has taken a strong stance on the physician-assisted suicide bills in New York that “lack important safeguards, making coercion or misapplication of the law a serious threat,” according to their website.

The conference also argues that these types of legislation “send a dangerous message to society that when is considered a ‘burden’ to someone else, his or her life is no longer worth living.”

In partnership with the New York State Catholic Conference, the organization has joined the New York Alliance Against Assisted Suicide, “an informal association of many diverse organizations, institutions, agencies and individuals in New York State committed to preventing the legalization of assisted suicide in the state.”

The alliance comprises of representatives from various sectors including disability rights, patients’ rights, healthcare, hospice care, civil rights, senior rights and other faith-based advocacy organizations.

Instead of pursuing physician-assisted suicide, opponents to the bill at the New York State Catholic Conference envision “increased access to palliative care and a rejection of the dangerous national movement toward physician assisted suicide.”

Oppositional supporters claim that when New York state is investing millions of dollars each year to combat suicide, the Medical Aid in Dying Act undermines their efforts by “declaring that oftentimes, suicide is “death with dignity.”

Locally, Father Thomas P. Mull at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Geneva pleaded with parishioners by showing his support for this year’s Diocese of Rochester Public Policy Weekend in last Sunday’s “Mull-ing Things Over” church bulletin that he pens each week.

“The bill lacks transparency and accountability and contains extremely weak conscience protections for both health care professionals and health care institutions. In short, it is unsafe for all involved,” Mull writes.

“Once the patient receives the pills, there are absolutely no protections. There is no oversight as to when, where, with whom, etc. the patient actually takes the lethal dosage of drugs. There is no requirement that the patient’s decision-making capacity be evaluated at the time that they self-administer the pills,” he continues.

This weekend, parishioners have the ability to sign the diocese-wide Public Policy Weekend petition in opposition to physician-assisted suicide.

The petition reads:

Governor Cuomo / New York State Senator / New York State Assembly Member:

“I strongly oppose any legislation to legalize assisted suicide in New York State. Allowing doctors to prescribe a lethal dose for patients to end their lives devalues human life. There is also significant potential for abuse. I urge you to focus instead on improving palliative care, to ensure compassionate, comprehensive care and pain management for those who are terminally ill. We need to accompany rather than abandon them.”

Those who are interested in signing the petition online may visit www.dor.org/petition.



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