Springfield, Mass. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Massachusetts bishop is condemning measures to legalize assisted suicide after the state's medical society reverses their position and pushes for legalization.
Bishop of the diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, Mitchell T. Rozanski, issued a statement on Monday condemning efforts to legalize assisted suicide in the state. Bishop Rozanski's statement followed the Massachusetts Medical Society's (MMS) adoption of a "position of neutral engagement," at its Interim Meeting on December 1–2, reversing its two-decades-long opposition to physician-assisted suicide.
"I am deeply disturbed to learn of local initiatives now being considered in support of physician-assisted suicide," Bp. Rozanski said.
"In a time when we are confronted by a crisis of teen suicide, such an effort would no doubt send our young people a mixed message," Bp. Rozanski said, adding, "In the strongest terms, I urge that these measures be rejected."
Bishop Rozanski also pointed out that the MMS issued a statement in September that reaffirmed its opposition to medical aid in dying. The MMS explained in their statement:
The Medical Society will engage in thoughtful and frank discussion of this deeply important topic and remains grateful for the opportunity to be a contributory voice in the Commonwealth's ongoing and earnest efforts to administer quality end-of-life care for its citizens.
Church Militant spoke with MMS media contact, Tom Flanagan, who provided us with the results of the statewide survey of physicians on the issue of medical aid in dying. The results compile the responses of less than 3,000 doctors of approximately 24,000 doctors surveyed during September and October — a return rate of only 12 percent.
While the MMS findings indicate that 60 percent of their members support medical assistance in dying and legalization of it, the majority of those who responded "rarely" or "never" treat patients at end of life nor have they received palliative care training.
Of the doctors that do treat end of life patients, it is in a statistical dead heat with 38 to 37 percent supporting changing MMS policy versus maintaining opposition to legalizing euthanasia.
Democratic senator, Barbara L'Italien, one of 44 co-sponsors of Massachusetts HB1194, An Act Relative to End of Life Options, explained in September that there is no question that these people are going to die, rather, "This is about whether they have the right to decide whether they are going to end pain and suffering."
Bishop Rozanski calls out legislators on this saying, "While supporters deceptively portray this as a compassionate effort, it is far from that," noting pro-life groups representing the disabled and elderly oppose this bill strongly.
The concept of redemptive suffering is lost in this view of dying. There are numerous papal encyclicals that point out the need for man to imitate Christ in his sufferings. In Miserentissimus Redemptor, Pius XI says:
Rightly, therefore, does Christ, still suffering in His mystical body, desire to have us partakers of His expiation, and this is also demanded by our intimate union with Him, for since we are "the body of Christ and members of member" (1 Corinthians 7:27), whatever the head suffers, all the members must suffer with it (1 Corinthians 7:26).
Mystici Corporis Christi and Salvifici Doloris also explain the Church's understanding that "Apart from Christ, the faithful cannot merit anything in the eyes of God, but if their sufferings are united to the sufferings of Christ, then they become meritorious." The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this succinctly, "Suffering, a consequence of original sin, acquires a new meaning; it becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus."
He recalled that voters rejected the "Death with Dignity" Initiative in 2012 and added, "The reasons to oppose it then remain just as valid now." Opposition at the time noted several problems with the law. First of their concerns was that it did not require family notification. Another concern was that a psychiatrist's consultation was not required. Opponents also explained doctors prognoses are often wrong and patients can live months or years longer than doctors had predicted.
"And despite baseless assertions to the contrary, enabling suicide under such vague guidelines leaves the door wide open to abuse and a slippery slope of an ever-increasing acceptance," Bp. Rozanski states.