6/17/2011

Better way to address the needs of people with serious illnesses

The dying process can be frightening, but society can be judged on how it responds to these fears, according to the U.S. bishops in a new document on physician assisted suicide. The bishops are in Seattle for their spring general meeting and approved today a statement titled "To Live Each Day With Dignity." The document offers a brief history of the development on debates regarding physician assisted suicide. It affirms that -- contrary to marketing strategies -- the drive to legalize this crime does not enhance the freedom of those with serious health conditions. The bishops' document affirms: "There is an infinitely better way to address the needs of people with serious illnesses."

Moreover, "a caring community devotes more attention, not less, to members facing the most vulnerable times in their lives. When people are tempted to see their own lives as diminished in value or meaning, they most need the love and assistance of others to assure them of their inherent worth," the statement affirmed.

"Respect for life does not demand that we attempt to prolong life by using medical treatments that are ineffective or unduly burdensome," the bishops clarified. "Nor does it mean we should deprive suffering patients of needed pain medications out of a misplaced or exaggerated fear that they might have the side effect of shortening life."

But effective palliative care allows patients to "devote their attention to the unfinished business of their lives, to arrive at a sense of peace with God, with loved ones, and with themselves."

"No one should dismiss this time as useless or meaningless," the prelates declared.

"When we grow old or sick and we are tempted to lose heart, we should be surrounded by people who ask 'How can we help?'" the bishops concluded. "We deserve to grow old in a society that views our cares and needs with a compassion grounded in respect, offering genuine support in our final days. The choices we make together now will decide whether this is the kind of caring society we will leave to future generations."

Full document: http://www.usccb.org/toliveeachday/bishops-statement-physician-assisted-suicide.pdf
Source: ZE11061609 - 2011-06-16; http://www.zenit.org/article-32877?l=english

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