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Catholic Teaching on End-of-Life Issues

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Debate on physician-assisted suicide (PAS) has once again surfaced following the tragic suicide of Brittany Maynard.   But, as is usually the case, media coverage tends to misstate Catholic teaching on end-of-life issues and some proponents deliberately twist our teachings to confuse the debate.

Proponents continue to focus on emotional elements and ignore the very significant and dangerous policy implications of PAS. But the discussion must be much deeper and the potential consequences for the elderly, disabled and disenfranchised members of society from PAS made much clearer.

However, Catholics – in their discernments on medical care – will benefit by a healthy understanding of what the Church really teaches.

In 2011, the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops issued a statement entitled To Live Each Day with Dignity: A Statement on Physician-Assisted Suicide.

"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,” say the Bishops.

“Our society can be judged by how we respond to these fears. A caring community devotes more attention, not less, to members facing the most vulnerable times in their lives. When people are tempted to see their own lives as diminished in value or meaning, they most need the love and assistance of others to assure them of their inherent worth.”

The California Catholic Conference has a special section of the website for Catholics facing end-of-life decisions. Embracing Our Dying has answers to frequently asked questions, links to relevant teachings and Bishop’s statements as well as resources parishes can use to explore the ethical and moral dimensions of end-of-life care.

Please take advantage of these resources, especially if you or a loved one is facing a terminal illness.