‘Killing is not caring’: California's assisted suicide law goes into effect

Today, June 9, the state of California’s assisted suicide legislation has gone into effect, giving approximately 12 percent of the population of the United States the right to request life-ending medication when in the final phase of a terminal illness. Matt Whitaker, state director of the national advocacy group Compassion and Choices, called it a “monumental day for Californians suffering from terminal diseases. Senator Bill Monning, a co-sponsor of the California bill, likewise recently called the law a “historic achievement,” a blessing that will bring relief to a “limited universe of people.”

While the idea of trying to help people facing prolonged and profound suffering to find relief is undeniably good—and church language in opposition to such laws has at times seemed to ignore that essential reality—the law’s actual impact on health care and human services in California are largely impossible to predict. Four other states have similar legislation—Vermont, Oregon, Washington and Montana; none have anywhere near the kind of population or bureaucracy of the California health care system. Indeed, the population of those four states put together is less than a third that of California, and they have nowhere near the level of complexity of services and demands.

Advertisement

One specific area of concern (which America has previously covered here and here) regards whether the availability and cheapness of a “suicide pill” in the face of steep health care costs will not almost certainly put pressure on both the health care system and the poorest members of our community to accept death rather than continued care. In the words of the California Catholic Conference, which has released a statement in conjunction with the law’s enactment, “What some mistakenly consider a newfound ‘freedom,’ will inevitably become a duty for others.”

In a strongly worded statement yesterday, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles also voiced his opposition to the new law. “With the new ‘End of Life Options’ law we are crossing a line,” he states. “Killing is not caring. True compassion is walking with those who are suffering, sharing their pain, helping them bear their burdens. Loving your neighbor as yourself is not a duty we fulfill by giving our neighbor a lethal dose of pills.”

In addition to condemning “this misguided law,” the dioceses of the California Catholic Conference promised positive action. “Together, we vow to strengthen our palliative care and other health care services for the chronically and terminally ill, so that no one feels compelled to choose assisted suicide.”

“Each of us should feel loved, worthy and cared for at every moment of our lives, especially when our earthly journey is nearing its end,” said the C.C.C.

“Through our health care professionals and the care and compassion of all people of goodwill, we will continue to lovingly attend, accompany and care for the terminally ill on their final journey.”

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Crystal Watson
1 year 6 months ago
I understand worrying that people might feel forced into choosing death, but there are lots of protections against that in the law. Really this is all about people who are dying and in a lot of pain deciding for themselves to end the pain a little earlier. I don't understand why the church would be against that. I've read some in the church saying that only God should get to decide when someone dies ... what theology is that based on? It reminds me of that past Onion story - "No One Should Have The Right To Die Until God Is Finished Toying With Them" - http://www.theonion.com/blogpost/no-one-should-have-the-right-to-die-until-god-is-d-37418
Christopher Dawson
1 year 6 months ago
I agree that strengthening our health care system so everyone gets care and feels value. But I also believe we all have the right to choose when we die. New York is considering a similar law and I hope it passes here, too. In the end, all that you have is your soul. It is not the state's---it is yours and you get to decide when enough is enough. http://c-dawson.blogspot.com/2016/05/all-that-you-have-is-your-soul.html
Colin Donovan
1 year 6 months ago
The commandment is, "Thou shalt not kill." God is the author and judge of life, not man. Sophistry regarding euthanasia, or abortion, which are philosophically linked as acts of alleged personal freedom, doesn't change that. Proponents should just admit that they no longer believe in God. Its their body, its their life, suffering is meaningless, including Christ's, etc.. That would be honesty, at least. Calling it compassion is dishonest. “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him." (Lk. 12:4-5).
Crystal Watson
1 year 6 months ago
Suffering *is* meaningless but that doesn't mean God doesn't exist. Jesus never told suffering people to just suck it up and endure it, he healed them. If people are dying within 6 months and there can be no healing, I don't see why God would be against them deciding to end things. And Christians kill all the time .... in wars, with capital punishment, in self-defense, etc.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

A reflection for the third Sunday of Advent
Elizabeth Kirkland CahillDecember 16, 2017
Homeless people are seen in Washington June 22. Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., chair of the U.S. bishops' domestic policy committee, released a statement Nov. 17 proclaiming that the House of Representatives "ignored impacts to the poor and families" in passing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act the previous day. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)
The United States is thwarting the advancement of millions of its citizens, a UN rapporteur says.
Kevin ClarkeDecember 16, 2017
Why not tax individuals for what they take out of society instead of what they contribute?
Paul D. McNelis, S.J.December 15, 2017
Pope Francis will renew the mandate of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors for another three years, informed sources told America this week.
Gerard O’ConnellDecember 15, 2017