TRENTON, N.J. (ChurchMilitant.com) - New Jersey residents are now legally permitted to commit suicide with the help of medical workers, and Catholic medical professionals there note a contradiction between the purpose of their profession and this new law.
New Jersey's assisted suicide law went into effect Thursday.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act into law April 12, 2019, making New Jersey the eighth state to legalize assisted suicide.
In a statement published when he signed the bill into law, Murphy said:
As a lifelong, practicing Catholic, I acknowledge that I have personally grappled with my position on this issue. My faith has informed and enhanced many of my most deeply held progressive values.
Indeed, it has influenced my perspectives on issues involving social justice, social welfare, and even those topics traditionally regarded as strictly economic, such as the minimum wage. On this issue, I am torn between certain principles of my faith and my compassion for those who suffer unnecessary, and often intolerable, pain at the end of their lives.
Church Militant spoke with some Catholic medical professionals in New Jersey for comment.
Judith, a Catholic nurse practitioner in New Jersey who does not want her last name published, expressed disappointment, noting a contradiction between why she chose the medical profession and this new law.
"I entered the nursing and medical profession to do my best to alleviate suffering, promote health and consider the whole person, including the soul and spirit," she said.
"This new law contradicts both Catholic teaching and defies the principle ethics in health care, including beneficence, maleficence, justice ― and it's an assault on God's autonomy to direct our lives in a way that is best for our souls," added Judith.
Judith refers to the four principles of health care ethics (autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice), applying autonomy to God.
In medicine, "autonomy" refers to the right of the patient to retain control over his or her body; however, mindful of Catholic teaching that the body is not one's own, Judith related the principle to God.
Judith does not think there will be New Jersey laws passed any time soon forcing medical professionals to participate in assisted suicide, but she did warn about the slippery slope her state is now sliding down:
I am not currently concerned about future legislation that would force compliance against freedom of conscience; however, I am extremely concerned about the slippery slope we are now sliding down in New Jersey.
Other states have shown that, once this so-called "death with dignity" legislation is introduced with various restrictions, it is only a matter of time before those restrictions begin to disappear.
If we look to other countries such as Holland, we see that those restrictions have been more or less completely removed and "death with dignity" has even been applied to some against their wills.
Elizabeth, a Catholic certified physician assistant from New Jersey who also does not want her last name published, expressed similar thoughts to Judith on the medical profession not meshing with assisted suicide.
"When physicians graduate medical school, they swear to 'do no harm,' according to the Hippocratic oath," she said. "Physician-assisted suicide directly violates this oath."
Elizabeth spoke about the attack on human dignity now backed by law in New Jersey.
It decreases the dignity of life and threatens the terminally ill by viewing them as burdens. Physician-assisted suicide is just another way people are made less human in this world and is thus a slippery slope to euthanasia. Yes, patients suffer a great deal during the dying process; however, there are resources already out there, such as palliative and hospice care, that provide comfort to patients and their families and allow patients to die with dignity and respect.
Catholic teaching, which Murphy purports to believe, includes the notion that motives can never lessen the gravity of the offense.
"Intentional euthanasia, whatever its forms or motives, is murder. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator," (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2324).
"Governor Murphy says that, as a Catholic, he might personally disagree with this legislation, but he cannot stop others from dying as they wish. That is obviously hypocritical," said Judith.
"I am ashamed to live in a state that allows this," she added.