suicide

Ethics Committee Statement on Massachusetts Initiative

NCPD Ethics Committee Issues Statement

Why People with Disabilities Have an Interest in Defeating Initiative Petition 1112

Initiative Petition 1112 will allow Massachusetts residents to ask their physicians for lethal medication to kill themselves. Presently, it authorizes only those with terminal diseases to make such request. Nevertheless, if adopted, it will create a real threat to all people with disabilities.

The fact is that people with terminal diseases are disabled. Under Massachusetts law, “handicap” includes any physical impairment that “substantially limits one or more major life activities [,]” such as “caring for one's self,” “performing manual tasks,” or even “breathing.” Few, if any, terminal diseases would fall outside such definition.

 

The Initiative Petition is merely the first step toward making lethal medication available to all those with severe disabilities.

If loss of autonomy and loss of dignity are accepted as valid reasons for killing oneself, it will legitimate the prejudice that has long underlaid treatment of disabled people as second-class. The citizens of Massachusetts should utterly reject “the view that an acceptable answer to discrimination and prejudice is to assure the ‘right to die’ to those against whom the discrimination and prejudice exists.
 
Accordingly, people with disabilities have good reason to oppose this deeply flawed initiative petition.


 

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Suicide

A rapid increase in suicide in our time is cause for alarm among pastoral workers and, of course, family members and other survivors of this tragedy. The depths of depression can rob a person of his or her desire to live. Over 90% of all deaths by suicide are a result of depression, implying a person is not in their “right” mind and therefore not capable of making a rational and moral decision. With the knowledge now available about suicide, about what precipitates the act itself and also the act’s tragic effect on survivors, the church takes a much more compassionate stance on this issue than it has in the past.

While God is the giver of life, and “we are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it,” there are occasions when a person resorts to this path as an only escape from deep psychological pain. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2280-2282).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives. (no. 2283).

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