A message on physician assisted suicide from the Catholic Bishops of Maryland
We are deeply disappointed to learn that once again the Maryland General Assembly will debate whether to legalize physician assisted suicide. The central tenet guiding our opposition to this deadly proposal is that all human life is created in the image and likeness of God and therefore sacred. In 2024, medical advancements and improvements in pain management mean we can make individuals with terminal illnesses comfortable and improve the quality of the remainder of their lives without them feeling the need to reluctantly choose a “dignified death.”
Enhance End of Life Care
Therefore, it is incumbent upon each of us to ensure that those at the end of their lives can experience a death that doesn’t include offering a form of suicide prescribed by a doctor.
We believe our elected officials should work to improve access to the network of care available to Maryland families by increasing access to palliative and hospice care, enhancing end-of-life education and training opportunities for physicians, and ensuring that there is appropriate diagnosis and treatment for depression and other mental and behavioral health issues.
Legislation Lacks Safeguards
The proponents of this legislation claim that that this policy offers an “option” to a very small set of individuals who are suffering from a terminal illness with less than six months to live, claiming this option will help them maintain control and dignity during their final days on earth.
This legislation ignores the reality facing many in such conditions and is woefully lacking in the types of meaningful safeguards that would prevent this unnecessary and drastic option. Such safeguards include mandated mental health assessments, reporting requirements, safe disposal of unused medication or prohibitions against expansion of this program.
Vulnerable Individuals are at Risk
In every state or country where this dangerous policy has been legalized grave abuses and expansion have occurred, making assisted suicide available to far more people and not just those facing imminent death.
This legislation puts our most vulnerable brothers and sisters at risk of making decisions for themselves that are manipulated by factors such as disability, mental instability, poverty and isolation. Maryland has accurately recognized that suicide is a serious public health concern in the general population and has offered substantial resources to address the concern. 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.
A Better Path Forward
There is a better path forward for the people of Maryland and it does not involve suicide. As Pope Francis reminds us: “We must accompany people towards death, but not provoke death or facilitate assisted suicide. I would point out that the right to care and treatment for all must always be prioritized, so that the weakest, particularly the elderly and the sick, are never discarded. Indeed, life is a right, not death, which must be welcomed, not administered. And this ethical principle applies to everyone, not just Christians or believers.”
We urge all people of good will to demand that our lawmakers reject suicide as an end-of-life option and to choose the better, safer path that involves radical solidarity with those facing the end of their earthly journey. Let us choose the 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.
Most Reverend William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore
Wilton Cardinal Gregory
Archbishop of Washington.
Most Reverend William Koenig
Bishop of Wilmington