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US Bishops: Assisted-suicide laws pose serious risks for people with disabilities

The Bishops of the United States express appreciation for a new report that details the dangers posed by assisted suicide, especially for people with disabilities, and call its legalization unjust.

By Devin Watkins

“The legalization of doctor-assisted suicide separates people into two groups: those whose lives we want to protect and those whose deaths we encourage.”

Two leading US bishops issued that statement in response to a report released last week by the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency that advises the President and Congress.

The report examines the effects of assisted suicide laws on people with disabilities. The authors say most people who request doctor-assisted suicide are influenced by “unmet service and support needs.”

“The Danger of Assisted Suicide Laws” report calls on Congress to address these unmet needs through funding and legislation.

Dignity of all human life

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, say the report exposes the “serious risks of abuse, coercion, and discrimination” of assisted suicide.

They say the division of people into those who deserve protection and those whose deaths are encouraged is “unjust and seriously undermines equal protection under the law.”

“The human rights and intrinsic worth of a person do not change with the onset of age, illness, or disability,” the US bishops assert.

The USCCB statement urges all Americans to “uphold the dignity of life, cherish the lives of all human beings, and work to prevent all suicides.”

Suicide does not provide dignity

Several US states have legalized assisted suicide, including Oregon, Washington State, Vermont, California, Colorado, Washington DC, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Maine.

The National Council on Disability report says state regulations often leave people with disabilities unprotected in the face of abuses.

It rejects the idea that assisted suicide gives “dignity”.

“The idea that hastened death is a pathway to dignity for people facing physical decline reveals the public’s extreme disparagement of functional limitations and a perception that ‘dignity’ is not possible for people who rely on supports, technology, or caregivers to be independent or alive,” it reads.

Every suicide is a tragedy

“Many hold the attitude,” the report continues, “that a person with a disability may be better off dead than alive.”

The Bishops of the United States scrap that idea, saying: “Every suicide is a human tragedy, regardless of the age, incapacity, or social/economic status of the individual.”

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17 October 2019, 15:58