Opponents ready for battle against assisted suicide

Sep 9, 2016

The Catholic Church is pushing back against proposals in Albany to allow physician-assisted suicide.

Former Attorney General Dennis Vacco outlined the legal issues in the debate over assisted suicide.
Credit Mike Desmond/WBFO News

The issue is expected to be an early flashpoint in the next session of the State Legislature. While it never reached a floor vote in the most recent session, a bill that would have allowed for assisted suicide did pass through the Assembly Health Committee.

The opposition is being led by the State Catholic Conference of Bishops. The organization's Associate Director, Kathleen Gallagher, was on hand Thursday at a session hosted by Saint Gregory the Great Ministry where she called for better alternatives.

"Let's open the door to promote better hospice care. New York State ranks 49th in the nation in terms of the utilization of hospice. We think that's shameful," Gallagher said. 

"We should accompany people in their suffering not abandon them with a lethal dose of pills."

In 1997, the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the issue should be decided in the states. At this time, four states have approved assisted-suicide measures.

On the winning side of that case was former New York State Attorney General Dennis Vacco, who discussed the issue during Thursday's session.

"Think about it. The same doctor who walks into the room and says, here, take this drug, gets to then submit under this proposed legislation the death certificate where he blames the death on the underlying illness," Vacco said. 

"Tell me that that's not ripe for abuse."

Vacco also outlined what he saw as flaws in the current bill, which he says does not screen for depression in those dealing with long-term pain.

Bishop Richard Malone was more direct in his assessment.

"Proponents of this legislation call it dying with dignity. But the Catholic Church hardly considers it dignified to go against God's plan and choose the time and method of one's death."