Everyone Deserves the Freedom to Make Their Own End-Of-Life Decisions

The nation's most powerful religious body is launching an attack on the right to dictate our end-of-life decisions.

During its high-profile June 15-17 meeting in Seattle, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opposed the choice of aid in dying at life's end.

The Bishops Conference proposes a platform designed to restrict patient access to end-of-life choice. Their document, To Live Each Day with Dignity, is the first statement on aid in dying by the full body of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

They also seek to shame people who support aid in dying, and the terminally ill patients who seek it, through the unique power of their pulpit.

Every American should have the right to a dying process free of meddling from religious or governmental institutions.

Let the Conference of Bishops know that their views do not reflect mainstream opinion. No one--and no institution--should have the power to dictate your end of life choices.
Religious doctrine and human liberty, like faith and conscience, have existed in harmony as well as discord for centuries. Further evidence of that is emerging from your Spring General Assembly in Seattle, Washington, where for the first time, you formalize a statement in opposition to what you call "physician assisted suicide."

"Suicide" is not at issue here. Compassion & Choices shares society's duty to prevent a person's deliberate act of ending life prematurely. "Aid in dying," however, is our paramount concern because we believe end-of-life choice is an essential feature of comprehensive end-of-life care and human liberty. We support the freedom of a terminally ill individual, with no possibility of cure, yet the prospect of physical and emotional suffering, to bring that suffering to an end on their own terms, according to their own conscience and beliefs.

Allowing aid in dying is very much a compassionate act, which is why an increasing majority of Americans have come to support it and factor it into their own vision of life's end. Whether Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, agnostic, or other, individuals who choose aid in dying do so as part of a profound spiritual and rational process that may be the ultimate expression of their values and beliefs. We decry the decision of the U.S. Conference to tarnish this most personal choice with the scolding language of your statement today.

And while we fully respect the Conference's role in the religious instruction to those of the Catholic faith, we cannot accept the premise that the teachings of one religious authority should overrule the most personal decisions of individuals of every faith. The choice of how to address the suffering of a terminal illness must be the province of dying individuals themselves, in consultation with their doctors, families, clergy and conscience.

That is why we, the undersigned, stand strongly against the statement of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and in unwavering support of the compassionate inclusion of aid in dying in the continuum of end-of-life choices.
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