By Maurice Zekaria
On Oct. 5th, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the “End of Life Option Act.” The law entails that if a patient is terminally ill and is expected to die within six months, the patient may seek a prescription for medication to prematurely end his or her life.
This legislation disregards the fundamental doctrines of the Catholic Church, an institution which is the foundation of Loyola High School’s identity. Physician assisted suicide encourages medical apathy, discriminates against the elderly and disabled, and contradicts the values of the United States.
By legalizing physician assisted suicide, doctors are encouraged to impose the option of suicide on their patients rather than actually treating them. California has the highest frequency of medical malpractice lawsuits across all specializations, as reported by the National Institute of Health. To avoid these malpractice lawsuits, Californian doctors have a monetary incentive to not operate on their patients.
Additionally, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the average cost of healthcare in 2015 for the typical American is higher than it has ever been, giving the patient and his or her survivors a financial incentive to prematurely end his or her life rather than undergoing treatment.
Moral Theology teacher Mr. James Crofut says, “legalized assisted suicide contradicts a fundamental purpose of law, to protect our weakest members of our community. A human life is priceless; money should never be a factor in the decision to end one’s life.”
Pope Francis also criticizes modern “throw away culture” in today’s global capitalist economy. He explains that today’s Western society values humans based upon their productivity in the economy when, according to the Church, every life is sacred, even the vulnerable and “unproductive” of society.
Not only does the law promote medical inaction, but it also discriminates against the ill and aging population. The elderly and disabled experience prejudicial attitudes from able-bodied people, including doctors, who incorrectly assume they have little quality of life. Such prejudices could easily lead families, doctors, and society to encourage death for people who are depressed and emotionally vulnerable as they adjust to life with a serious illness or disability.
According to Archbishop José Gómez, “Every person ever created has infinite dignity from the moment of conception through death because each person is created in the image and likeness of God. This dignity cannot be taken away or diminished regardless of disability, infirmity, or illness.”
Therefore, society should strive to assist the elderly, handicapped, and terminally ill instead of marginalizing them and using assisted suicide as an excuse not to help. The American Medical Association holds that “Physician assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as a healer.” Counselling and assistance should be offered to help the vulnerable with the emotions of their difficult situations rather than merely imposing the option of suicide.
The responsibility of protecting the infirmed is enshrined in our nation’s morals. Although the United States Constitution clearly establishes a separation between religious institutions and the state, theology teacher Mr. Scott Johnson says that the law still has a duty to all its constituents. Johnson said, “Civil law fully recognizes and protects all religions’, including the Catholic religion’s, right, obligation, and opportunity to participate in shaping the moral character of society.”
Mr. Johnson also clarifies that the interests of the church parallel the interests of the state: “This willingness to hear the Church’s moral voice should not be avoided in light of the reality that the Church’s teachings are in general accord with our nation’s foundational values: ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’”
The rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are, in fact, from God. The Declaration of Independence states that all people are endowed by their creator with these inalienable rights. If God is the granter of these rights, then this country ought to respect the Creator’s gifts to us, and life is one of them.