Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Why does the Church oppose Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS)?

Physician-Assisted Suicide 
Legislation has been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly (HB 1021/SB 676) that would allow doctors to legally prescribe a lethal dose of medicine at the request of a patient who has been deemed mentally competent and who has received a terminal diagnosis. The legislation, referred to by its proponents as “death with dignity” is unnecessary, flawed, and lacks safeguards.

It’s impossible to accurately predict a terminal diagnosis
Patients can request physician-assisted suicide if a doctor has    diagnosed them with a terminal illness that will result in six months or less to live. Even doctors will admit such a prognosis is nearly impossible to accurately predict. The inability to accurately predict life expectancy is among the most compelling reasons to oppose physician-assisted suicide. Medical prognoses are based on statistical averages, which are often incorrect in determining what will happen to an individual patient. We all know someone who has outlived their prognoses, sometimes by several years. The widow of Sen. Ted Kennedy, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, publicly opposed a recent statewide referendum in Massachusetts attempting to legalize physician-assisted suicide. While doctors predicted her husband had only two to four months to live, she noted, “Teddy lived 15 more productive months,” giving her and his family “15 months of cherished memories.” 

Patients aren’t required to receive a screening for depression 
The bill does not require doctors to screen patients for depression before providing lethal medication. Mental health professionals argue strongly that the overwhelming number of suicides could have been avoided with the right therapeutic intervention. And, they know that the stress and turmoil caused by difficult medical diagnoses can trigger a depressive episode – a discrete medical condition that can be treated. The legislation opens the door for those who are suffering from depression – or even those who are overwhelmed for a short period of time – to choose a lethal course of action.
No family notification is required
While the prescribing physician is required to “recommend” that the patient inform family members of his or her intention, there is nothing in the law requiring this notification. There is also no requirement for a doctor – or anyone for that matter – to be present when the patient takes a lethal prescription. There are no safeguards to ensure that a patient is not coerced at the time of death into ingesting the drug, or even to prevent another person from administering the drug, leaving open serious potential for abuse. 

No doctor or nurse is present 
In almost all cases, patients will ingest the lethal dose at home, often alone, without any doctor or nurse with them in case something goes wrong. 

The lethal drugs are picked up at your local pharmacy 
Patients pick up their lethal medication at their local pharmacy. In most cases, this medication is up to 100 individual pills of  secobarbital. 

Which states currently allow physician-assisted suicide (PAS)? 
Since January 1994, there have been more than 140 legislative proposals in 27 states to legalize Oregon-style laws. All but three states, Oregon, Washington and Vermont, have adamantly rejected the legalization of physician assisted suicide. In addition, through judicial processes it is legal in Montana and is before the court in New Mexico.

Why does the Church oppose PAS?
The Catholic Church teaches that physician-assisted suicide gravely violates the sacred value of all human life, particularly of those who are vulnerable due to illness, age or disability, and undermines the medical profession’s healing mission. “A choice to take one’s life is a supreme contradiction of freedom, a choice to eliminate all choices. And a society that devalues some people’s lives, by hastening and facilitating their deaths, will ultimately lose respect for their other rights and freedoms.” (To Live Each Day with Dignity, USCCB) 

What does the Church teach about caring for patients at the end of life?
The Church does teach that we should take reasonable steps to sustain our lives, including the use of beneficial medical treatments, and of effective means for conveying nourishment and fluids. “Respect for life does not demand that we attempt to prolong life by using medical treatments that are ineffective or unduly burdensome. 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.” (Ibid.)

What other groups oppose PAS?
The American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Nurses Association, the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization, the National Council on Disability, and numerous other medical, palliative care, and disability organizations oppose physician-assisted suicide. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, reflecting its members’ extensive experience in caring for patients facing a terminal illness, states: “When symptoms or circumstances become intolerable to a patient, effective therapies are now available to assure relief from almost all forms of distress during the terminal phase of an illness without purposefully hastening death as the means to that end.” (Commentary and Resolution on Physician Assisted Suicide, NHPCO, 2005)
What has Pope Francis said about PAS?
“In many places, the quality of life is related primarily to economic means, to ‘well-being,’ to the beauty and enjoyment of the physical, forgetting other more profound dimensions of existence — interpersonal, spiritual and religious. In fact, in the light of faith and right reason, human life is always sacred and always ‘of quality.’ There is no human life that is more sacred than another — every human life is sacred — just as there is no human life qualitatively more significant than another….”

Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would pose serious societal risks.”

Achieving Composure by Romano Guardini

Achieving Composure

by Romano Guardini

In religious life silence is seldom discussed alone. Sooner or later its companion, composure, demands attention. Silence overcomes noise and talk; composure is the victory over distractions and unrest. Silence is the quiet of a person who could be talking; composure is the vital, dynamic unity of an individual who could be divided by his surroundings, tossed to and fro by the myriad happenings of every day.

When then do we mean by composure? As a rule, a man's attention is broken into a thousand fragments by the variety of things and persons about him. His mind is restless; his feelings seek objects that are constantly changing; his desires reach out for one thing after another; his will is captured by a thousand intentions, often conflicting. He is harried, torn, self-contradictory.

Composure works in the opposite direction, rescuing man's attention from the sundry objects holding it captive and restoring unity to his spirit. It frees his mind from its many tempting claims and focuses it on one, the all-important. It calls the soul that is dispersed over myriad thoughts and desires, plans and intentions back to itself, re-establishing its depth.

5.) All things seem to disquiet man. The phenomena of nature intrigue him; they attract and bind. But because they are natural they have a calming, collecting influence as well. It is much the same with those realities that make up human existence: encounter and destiny, work and pleasure, sickness and accident, life and death. All make their demands on man, crowding him in and overwhelming him; but they also give him earnestness and weight.

What is genuinely disastrous is the disorder and artificiality of present-day existence. We are constantly stormed by violent and chaotic impressions. At once powerful and superficial, they are soon exhausted, only to be replaced by others. They are immoderate and disconnected, the one contradicting, disturbing, and obstructing the other. At every step we find ourselves in the claws of purposes and cross-purposes that inveigle and trick us. Everywhere we are confronted by advertising that attempts to force upon us things we neither want nor really need. We are constantly lured from the important and profound to the distracting, "interesting" piquant.

7.) This state of affairs exists not only around but within us. To a large extent man lives without depth, without a center, in superficiality and chance. No longer finding the essential within himself, he grabs at all sorts of stimulants and sensations; he enjoys them briefly, tires of them, recalls his own emptiness and demands new distractions. He touches everything brought within easy reach of his mind by the constantly increasing means of transportation, information, education, and amusement; but he doesn't really absorb anything. He contents himself with having heard about it; he labels it with some current catchword, and shoves it aside for the next. He is hollow man and tries to fill his emptiness with constant, restless activity. He is happiest when in the thick of thing, in the rush and noise and stimulus of quick results and successes. The moment quietness surrounds him, he is lost.

This state makes itself felt generally: in the religious life, in church services, in Holy Mass. Constant unrest is one of its earmarks. Then there is much gazing about, uncalled for kneeling down and standing up, reaching for this and that, fingering of apparel, coughing, and throat-clearing. Even when behavior remains outwardly controlled, an inner restlessness is clearly evident in the way people sing, listen, respond — in their whole bearing. They are not really present; they do not vitally fill the room and hour: they are not composed.

Composure is more than freedom from scattered impressions and occupations. It is something positive; it is life in its full depth and power. Left to itself, life will always turn outward toward the multiplicity of things and events, and this natural inclination must be counter balanced. Consider, for a moment, the nature of respiration. It has two directions: outward and inward. Both are vital; each is part of this elementary function of life; neither is all of it. The living organism that only exhaled or only inhaled would soon suffocate. Composure is the spiritual man's "inhalation," by which, from deep within, he collects his scattered self and returns to his center. Only the composed person is really someone. Only he can be seriously addressed as one capable of replying.

Only he is genuinely affected by what life brings him, for he alone is awake, aware. And he is not only wide awake in the superficial sense of being quick to see and grab his advantage— this is a watchfulness shared also by birds and ants. What we mean is true awareness: that inner knowledge of the essential; that ability to make responsible decisions; sensitivity, readiness, and joie de vivre.

Once composure has been established, the Liturgy is possible. Not before. It is not much use to discuss Holy Scripture, the deep significance of symbols, and the vitality of the liturgical renewal if the prerequisite of earnestness is lacking. Without it, even the Liturgy deteriorates to something "interesting," a passing vogue. To participate in the Liturgy seriously we must be mentally composed. But like silence, composure does not create itself; it must be will and practiced.

Above all, we must get to church early in order to "tidy up" inwardly. We must have no illusions about our condition when we enter the church; we must frankly face our restlessness, confusion, disorder. To be exact, we do not yet really exist as persons at least not as persons God can address, expecting a fitting response. We are bundles of feelings, fancies, thoughts, and plans all at cross-purposes with each other. The first thing to do, then, is to quiet and collect ourselves. We must be able to say honestly: "now I am here. I have only one thing to do — participate with my whole being in the only thing that counts, the sacred celebration. I am entirely ready."

Once we attempt this, we realize how terribly distraught we are. Our thoughts drag us in all directions: to the people we deal with, family, friends, adversaries; to our work; to our worries; to public events; to private engagements. We must pull our thoughts back again and again and again, repeatedly calling ourselves to order. And when we see how difficult it is, we must not give up, but realize only the more clearly that it is high time we returned to ourselves.

But is it possible at all? Isn't man hopelessly given over to outward impressions, to the press of his desires and his own unrest? The question brushes the ultimate: the difference between man and animal. An animal is really bound by these things, unfree though, we must hasten to add, protected by the orderly dispositions of it instincts.

An animal is never truly distracted. In the exact sense we were using, it can be neither distracted nor composed; it has not yet been confronted with this either/or. Its own nature determines its existence and requires it to be in order. Only man can be distracted, because something in his spirit reaches beyond mere nature. The spirit can turn to the things of this world and lose itself there; the same spirit can also overcome distraction and fight its way through to composure.

There is something mysterious about the spirit, something relevant to eternity. Absolute rest and composure is eternity. Time is unrest and dispersion; eternity is rest and unity, not inactivity or boredom — only fools connect these with it. Eternity is the brimming fullness of life in the form of repose. Something of eternity is deep within us.

Let's call it by the beautiful name the spiritual masters use, the "ground of the soul" or the "peak of the spirit." In the first it appears as the repose of the intrinsic, of depth; in the second as the tranquillity of remoteness and the heights. This seed of eternity is within me, and I can count on its support. With its aid I can step out of the endless chase; I can dismiss everything that does not belong here in God's house; I can grow still and whole so that I can honestly reply to His summons: "Here I am, Lord."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Death Drugs Cause Uproar in Oregon

Death Drugs Cause Uproar in Oregon Aug. 6, 2008

The news from Barbara Wagner's doctor was bad, but the rejection letter from her insurance company was crushing.

The 64-year-old Oregon woman, whose lung cancer had been in remission, learned the disease had returned and would likely kill her. Her last hope was a $4,000-a-month drug that her doctor prescribed for her, but the insurance company refused to pay.

What the Oregon Health Plan did agree to cover, however, were drugs for a physician-assisted death. Those drugs would cost about $50.

"It was horrible," Wagner told "I got a letter in the mail that basically said if you want to take the pills, we will help you get that from the doctor and we will stand there and watch you die. But we won't give you the medication to live."

Critics of Oregon's decade-old Death With Dignity Law -- the only one of its kind in the nation -- have been up in arms over the indignity of her unsigned rejection letter. Even those who support Oregon's liberal law were upset.

The incident has spilled over the state border into Washington, where advocacy groups are pushing for enactment of Initiative 1000 in November, legalizing a similar assisted-death law.

Opponents say the law presents all involved with an "unacceptable conflict" and the impression that insurance companies see dying as a cost-saving measure. They say it steers those with limited finances toward assisted death.

"News of payment denial is tough enough for a terminally ill person to bear," said Steve Hopcraft, a spokesman for Compassion and Choices, a group that supports coverage of physician-assisted death.

Letter's Impact 'Devastating'

"Imagine if the recipient had pinned his hope for survival on an unproven treatment, or if this were the first time he understood the disease had entered the terminal phase. The impact of such a letter would be devastating," he told

Wagner, who had worked as a home health care worker, a waitress and a school bus driver, is divorced and lives in a low-income apartment. She said she could not afford to pay for the medication herself.

"I'm not too good today," said Wagner, a Springfield great-grandmother. "But I'm opposed to the [assisted suicide] law. I haven't considered it, even at my lowest point."

A lifelong smoker, she was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005 and quit. The state-run Oregon Health Plan generously paid for thousands of dollars worth of chemotherapy, radiation, a special bed and a wheelchair, according to Wagner.

The cancer went into remission, but in May, Wagner found it had returned. Her oncologist prescribed the drug Tarceva to slow its growth, giving her another four to six months to live.

But under the insurance plan, she can the only receive "palliative" or comfort care, because the drug does not meet the "five-year, 5 percent rule" -- that is, a 5 percent survival rate after five years.

A 2005 New England Journal of Medicine study found the drug erlotinib, marketed as Tarceva, does marginally improve survival for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer who had completed standard chemotherapy.

The median survival among patients who took erlotinib was 6.7 months compared to 4.7 months for those on placebo. At one year, 31 percent of the patients taking erlotinib were still alive compared to 22 percent of those taking the placebo.

"It's been tough," said her daughter, Susie May, who burst into tears while talking to

Monday, February 23, 2015


Stand Up to Stop PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED SUICIDE! Dear Parishioners HB 1021 (Physician Assisted Suicide) has been introduced in Annapolis this session. Two of our local delegates are co-sponsoring the bill. Concerns about this bad bill include: • Undue Influence and Pressure to End a Person’s Life: A person is at their most vulnerable when they receive a terminal diagnosis. Doctors are looked at as trusted advisors. If a doctor is offering suicide as a “medical treatment,” how many patients will feel a subtle, if not overt pressure to end their lives rather than to continue treatment? What if a family member is tired of taking care of the sick person and pressuring the patient to take their life? It’s impossible to prevent undue influence in the privacy of a doctor’s office or in the home. • Wrong Terminal Diagnosis: The legislation relies on a person getting a “terminal” diagnosis. However, given that a terminal diagnosis is often inaccurate, how many patients might decide to end their lives prematurely? The person could have spent months or even years together with loved ones. • No Required Psychological Evaluation: Study after study shows people experiencing a drastic change in their medical conditions suffer from depression. Yet the legislation carries no requirement that a patient who requests a prescription to commit suicide be properly evaluated to determine if they are depressed. The truly compassionate response to patients nearing the end of their lives is to offer them proper pain management and palliative care, the comforting presence of family and friends, and the assurance that their lives are valued. • No Witnesses: The bill does not require anyone to witness the person ingesting the drugs. This leaves the door wide open for coercion and even murder. District 28 (Charles County) Delegates Sally Jameson and C. T. Wilson have signed on as co-sponsors. Please contact them to express your displeasure with their co-sponsoring the bill and ask them to reconsider their co-sponsorship. When you contact your elected officials please be polite and to the point. Del Sally Jameson: Room 231House Office Building, 6 Bladen Street Annapolis, MD 20401 (410) 841-3337 or (301) 858-3337 Del C. T. Wilson: Room 422, House Office Building, 6 Bladen Street Annapolis, MD 20401 (410) 841-3325 or (301) 858-3325 See Maryland Catholic Conference website for more information.

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