New York assisted suicide bill loses support

By Hillary Senour

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A bill that would have helped legalize physician-assisted suicide in the state of New York has lost its only sponsor thanks to the influence of the New York State Catholic Conference.

In early May, director of Pro Life Activities for the Conference, Kathleen Gallagher, met with bill sponsor Assemblyman Eric Stevenson (D-Bronx) and convinced him to remove his support.

“It wasn't such a hard sell for us to get him to withdraw the bill,” Gallagher told EWTN News on May 25, “because he seemed uneasy with it to begin with.”

Gallagher said the Death with Dignity Act – introduced on Feb. 22 and dropped on May 9 – would have been especially dangerous for the poor and elderly without adequate healthcare who live in Stevenson's district.

Although physician-assisted suicide is generally presented as “personal autonomy and the ultimate right to privacy,” Gallagher said that the bottom line of such initiatives is economics.

In a country where the cost of healthcare and the population of the elderly are increasing at the same time, “that's what's going to drive assisted suicide to general public acceptance.”

Because Stevenson represents a district with a large pockets of poverty, said the very people he represents would have been susceptible to “pressure and coercion” to commit suicide once their lives were no longer seen as viable.

“It would have changed the way society cares for the sick from that of alleviating discomfort and managing pain to a death-based solution,” Gallagher said.

The proposed bill was modeled after Oregon's assisted suicide law, which allows a terminally ill patient to take his own life with the help of physician-supplied lethal drugs. Massachusetts voters will put a similar measure to vote this November.

“That's one to keep our eye on,” Gallagher said, “because often, as Massachusetts goes, so goes the East Coast and the rest of the United States.”

The Archdiocese of Boston has launched a campaign called “Suicide is Always a Tragedy” to educate voters about problems with the ballot imitative.

Aside from the moral issues of intentionally taking one's life, the Archdiocese says that voters should be aware that the bill does not sufficiently safeguard the patient from being manipulated or coerced into committing suicide.

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