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Assisted suicide is no way to promote public health

By REV. TED F. TUMICKI

Publication: The Day

Published March 31. 2013 4:00AM   Updated April 01. 2013 10:18AM

Imagine driving across the Gold Star Bridge from Groton to New London and seeing a person trying to jump off the bridge and commit suicide. Would you stop and try to talk the person off the bridge? Or would you stop and help the person jump off the bridge and commit suicide and require everyone else to keep driving by?

Legalizing physician-assisted suicide would have the same effect as helping the person jump off the bridge and requiring everyone else to drive by.

Under proposed legislation in Connecticut, a patient deemed competent and diagnosed by the attending physician as having a terminal illness, defined as having less than six months to live, can request in writing a prescription for lethal drugs, and upon receipt the patient ingests them and dies (or at least expects to).

While the bill is intended for those with terminal illness, there is no indication that the deaths will stop there, as diagnoses can be wrong. While lethal medication must be "ingested," the bill leaves open the possibility of another person helping the patient to ingest the medication, opening the door to euthanasia or murder.

While a person could be "competent" when requesting the medication, the person could be "incompetent" when taking the medication (with or without assistance) months or even a year later. While proponents claim that there are safeguards against euthanasia or murder, no one is required to actually witness the suicide, so there may not be any witnesses to an act or group-conspired act of euthanasia or murder.

Legalizing assisted suicide destroys a fundamental equality of life and dignity and replaces it with two new categories of people: Those who have a life no longer worth saving or fighting for and those who do; those who society should help to die and those who society should not help to die. Once society accepts this distinction for assisted suicide, and euthanasia performed under the guise of "assisted suicide," the pressure will mount to end the lives of patients who have lives no longer worth saving or fighting for or even worth the cost of caring for.

One only has to read the testimony of people with disabilities who are against assisted suicide to understand the additional pressure it would create to end life. When assisted suicide proponents assert that losing one's autonomy or becoming a burden on family or having no dignity because of the inability to feed oneself constitutes reasons for committing assisted suicide, people with disabilities remind everyone that such reasons describe the disabled; and if society accepts such reasons as valid for causing death by assisted suicide, the message is sent - intended or not - that the disabled would be better off dead as well. When does the "right to die" become the "duty to die?"

In the midst of it all, the bill expects everyone to pretend none of this is happening by requiring that no report of a public agency use the accurate words "suicide" or "assisted suicide" and instead use the euphemism "aid in dying" when assisted suicide is done according to the proposed law. Whatever happened to commitments to open and transparent government? Welcome to the Orwellian brave new world of Connecticut.

One very disturbing aspect of this bill is that it describes - and thereby dictates - the method by which qualified patients must die in order to enjoy the legal safety of the proposed law. Is it the role of the Public Health Committee to dictate how a person must die in order to enjoy the favor of the law? Should a Public Health Committee write and pass a law that results in death?

What this bill promotes is public death, not public health.

Rev. Tumicki earned degrees in theology, specializing in moral theology, in 2001 and in Canon Law in 2003 from the Catholic University of Louvain in Leuven, Belgium. He is presently the judicial vicar of the Diocesan Tribunal in Norwich and the pastor of three Roman Catholic parishes in Jewett City, Voluntown, and Preston.

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