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California Bishops: Every Conceivable Legal Remedy to Legalization of Assisted Suicide Should Be Considered

“The low-cost alternative of a lethal dose of drugs is no alternative to proper and effective palliative care, pain management and other basic medical services”

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Here is another statement from the bishops of California, regarding the legalization of assisted suicide in the state. Governor Jerry Brown signed assisted suicide legislation into law on Oct. 5.

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The decision of California’s Legislature and Governor Brown to place Californians at risk by making it legal for a physician to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs makes a travesty of compassion for the sick, care of the poor and protection of our most vulnerable residents.

As pastors and teachers, our first duty is to speak clearly and with conviction the truths of our faith so that our Catholic people will be able to understand the full teaching of the Church on end-of-life situations.  That teaching provides great solace and consolation at the last moments of life to patients and those who care for them.  A greater understanding and appreciation of our Catholic teaching can bring the peace and dignity we all seek as death approaches.  The Catholic Church wishes to offer all Californians the beauty of our teaching on the end of life, the effectiveness of our compassionate care and the sound prudence of a responsible exercise of patient autonomy.

Concerned opponents of physician-assisted suicide have already started the process for a referendum.  We affirm and support them in that decision.  As citizens of this state, we all have the right and, we would emphasize, the duty to ensure that the voice of the people, especially those most vulnerable, is heard. This is also an opportunity for us to acknowledge the many women and men throughout the State who through their organizations and individually worked tirelessly and journeyed together in opposing physician assisted suicide in these past months.  We thank them once again. 

 Justice and promotion of the common good demand that every conceivable legal remedy to the unwise legalization of assisted suicide be given due consideration. We are in that process of such consideration now.  As Pope Francis told a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress only last month:

“You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the aim of all politics.  A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those of greater risk.  Legislative activity is always based on care for the people.”

We ask once again, where is the care when millions of Californians do not have access to affordable and compassionate health care?  The low-cost alternative of a lethal dose of drugs is no alternative to proper and effective palliative care, pain management and other basic medical services.

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