"It simply will be cheaper to kill than to treat," said Dennis Vacco as he made a case against physician assisted suicide. The former New York State Attorney General was one of the featured speakers at a forum hosted by the Public Policy Committee of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo on Thursday evening. Vacco successfully argued against physician assisted suicide before the US Supreme Court back in 1997. He drew a round of applause from an audience of about 80 people at St. Gregory the Great Ministry Center after making the statement, "Let's not do at the end of life what we did at the beginning of life with Roe vs. Wade."
In the last legislative session, proposed New York State legislation that would legalize doctor-assisted suicide was approved by the Assembly Health Committee:
The legislation was never brought to a vote in the State Senate or Assembly so it would have to be reintroduced in January to have any chance of passage. It would give those who are diagnosed with a terminal illness and less than six months to live the right to request medication from their doctors that would end their lives.
"Death is not a choice," said Kathleen Gallagher, director of Pro-Life Activities for the New York State Catholic Conference, who stressed that the elderly and low income could become most vulnerable. "These are the people who are going to be pressured by doctors or family members who feel overwhelmed. It's not going to be a free choice to die."
Those who attended the forum were urged to let their voices be heard against the proposed legislation by visiting www.nyscatholic.org where they can find easy to use links to their state representatives.
"It's an issue where the Church sees no grey area," said Bishop Richard J. Malone, through a written statement read by Cheryl Calire, the director of Pro-Life Activities for the Diocese of Buffalo. "The end of life for the terminally ill can be long and excruciating, but so many advances have been made in palliative care that we often do have options of whether to die at home or in a hospice setting surrounded by loved ones with whatever level of pain management we choose. The choice of when and how we die is in God's hands, not ours."
During a meeting with physicians at the Vatican in June, Pope Francis said physician-assisted suicide is part of a "throwaway culture" that offers a "false compassion" and treats a human person as a problem. "True compassion," the Holy Father said, "does not marginalize anyone, nor does it humiliate and exclude - much less considers the disappearance of a person as a good thing."
Bishop Malone cited the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' statement on physician-assisted suicide titled, "To Live Each Day with Dignity":
In it, the bishops wrote: "To live in a manner worthy of our human dignity, and to spend our final days on this earth in peace and comfort, surrounded by loved ones - that is the hope of each of us. In particular, Christian hope sees these final days as a time to prepare for our eternal destiny."
"I ask you to stand up for life," said Bishop Malone in his statement to those gathered at Saint Greg's, "The choices we make together now will decide whether this is the kind of caring society we will leave to future generations. We can help build a world in which love is stronger than death."