October 26, 2012
Question 2: Prescribing Medication to End Life.
As you know, Tuesday, November 6th, 2012, we citizens will have an opportunity to exercise our legal right to vote. In addition to casting our vote for president, we, Massachusetts residents, will also vote on the controversial Ballot “Question 2: “Prescribing Medication to End Life. “ As your pastor, I would like for you to consider our Catholic faith’s teachings when you make your decision on this particular issue. Please be aware that voting “yes” on Question 2 will approve a law that will legalize assisted suicide in our state (similar laws are in place in the state of Oregon and Washington). In good conscience, we as Catholics do not support assisted suicide of any kind.
The Catholic Church’s teaching regarding the sanctity of human life was, is and will be the same: human life is sacred, unique, unrepeatable, and untouchable from the moment of conception to our last breath here on earth. For us, people of faith, human life is a gift from God. God is the Master of Life, Death, and Eternal Life not we, human beings. We are only stewards of our life for which we are accountable before our Creator, the Giver of Life. We, Christians, even at the time of our suffering can find meaning in relation to Christ’s redemptive suffering. We place our faith and hope in Jesus Christ, Our Savior, Whose life, death, and resurrection have given new meaning to our life, suffering, death and eternity. As St. Paul says, “While we live we are responsible to the Lord, and when we die we die as His servants. Both in life and in death we are Lord’s.” (Romans 14, 8).
The late Holy Father, John Paul II reflecting on the issue of “euthanasia” (Latin: easy death) states:
“ In modern society, in which even the fundamental values of human life are frequently threatened, cultural changes influence the way people vie death and suffering. Another point to be noted is the increasing ability of medical science to heal and to prolong life under certain conditions which, at times, raise questions of morality. Consequently, people living in these new circumstances ask anxious questions about meaning of extreme old age and death. They ask themselves, not unreasonably, whether or not they have the right to secure for themselves or their loved ones an “easy death” which shortens suffering and seems to them more in keeping with human dignity.
Human life is the basis of all values; it is the source and indispensable condition for every human activity and all society. While the majority of human beings regard life as sacred and maintain that no one dispose of it at will, the followers of Christ see it as being something even more excellent: a loving gift from God, which they must preserve and render fruitful. The further consideration entails certain consequences:
- No one may attack the life of an innocent person without thereby resisting the love of God for that person; without violating a fundamental right which can be neither lost nor alienated and, therefore, without committing an extremely serious crime.
- All human beings must live their lives in accordance with God’s plan. Life is given to them as a possession which must bear fruit here on earth but which must wait for eternal life to achieve its full and absolute perfection.
- Intentional death or suicide is just as wrong as is homicide. Such an action by a human being must be regarded as a rejection of God’s supreme authority and loving plan.”
The “Question 2” proposition on the MA ballot deliberately disregards the notion of God’s presence in our lives and His authority over our life and death. Though we live in a secular society, more than 90% of the American population believes in God but many do not feel obligated to follow God’s Divine Law regarding the “sanctity of life.” In this country we enjoy our nation’s legacy of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. At the same time, we the faithful of the church are not separated from our life in the society we live in. Therefore, our faith informs our conscience, morality and actions. Our democratic process allows us to build the society we want to live in. And so, these decisions are up to us, the people. On November 6th we will decide this controversial issue.
Based on my medical background and as your pastor and a hospital chaplain for many years, I can humbly say that people afflicted by different illnesses and traumas do not need this legal option to ask their doctor to prescribe a lethal dose of medicine to end their life. They need more love, more compassion, more empathy, more presence from their loved ones and assurance that they will not be abandoned and alone in the midst of their suffering. Once again, please consider this when you vote on MA Ballot Question 2.
PS: On October, 23, 2012 as DFCI Ethics Committee Member I attended a forum at the Center for Bioethics at Brigham & Woman’s Hospital where two opponents: (opposed Q2) Richard V. Aghababian, MD, President, Massachusetts Medical Society, and (supported Q2) Marcia Angell, MD, Former Editor in Chief, The New England Journal of Medicine, presented their view on the MA Ballot Question 2: “ Prescribing Medication to End Life”.
Here is a link to the text of Dr. Richard Aghababian’ arguments against Ballot Question 2 presented at the forum: article on massmed.org
Also, please see: “ Noon Question 2 “ b y Boston Herald Editorial Staff: Noon Question 2