As Maryland inches towards passing a bill that would legalize physician assisted suicide, several US bishops have penned an open letter urging them to reverse course. Called the “End-of-Life Option Act,” the law would allow doctors to prescribe medication that could increase the risk of death, or withhold medication that could sustain life at the request of patients whose diagnoses indicate that they only have six months to live.
Archbishop William E. Lori, of Baltimore, Archbishop Wilton Daniel Gregory, of Washington, and Bishop William Koenig, of Wilmington, joined together for the January letter, titled “A Better Way Forward.” In it, they argue that there is no need for physician assisted suicide in the modern era. They pointed towards Catholic teaching that even at the end of life, the human dignity that each of us deserves should be respected:
“In 2024, medical advancements and improvements in pain management mean we can make individuals with terminal illness comfortable and improve the quality of the remainder of their lives without them feeling the need to reluctantly choose a ‘dignified death’,” the bishops wrote.
The bishops went on to reiterate Church teaching, that all human life is sacred, as we are made in the image of God. They encourage the citizenry to demand that lawmakers reject suicide as an end-of-life option. Instead, they called for “all people of good will” to stand in “radical solidarity” with those approaching the end of their lives.
“Let us choose a path that models true compassion and dignity to those facing end of life decisions and protects the most vulnerable from the deadly proposition of physician assisted suicide,” the letter read.
The bishops further argued that the bill in its current form needs more safeguards, such as mental health assessments, as well as wording that could prevent the physician assisted suicide program to expand. They warned of the tendency of states and countries that have passed such laws to “abuse” and expand the program to include those who are not facing imminent death.
Furthermore, they noted that there has already been an uptick in the US suicide rate in the years since the pandemic began. They suggested that “there is a better path forward for the people of Maryland and it does not involve suicide.”
“At a time when our nation is grappling with how to address a frighteningly high suicide rate, it is deeply illogical for the State of Maryland to be seeking ways to facilitate suicide for those with a terminal illness, all the while claiming such preventable and unnecessary deaths are somehow dignified,” the bishops wrote.
Click here to read the full Bishops’ letter in English and Spanish.