Physician Assisted Suicide

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''A Clear 'No' to Physician-Assisted Suicide'' by Rev. Stephen R. Ryan, OSM Region XI Reprinted from the August/September issue of Vision with permission from the National Association of Catholic Chaplains.

The morality and practicality of physician-assisted euthanasia in the United States has come increasingly into question, in the wake of recent efforts to legalize physician-assisted suicide and voluntary active euthanasia. After a year of study on this issue, the Bioethics Committee of the California Medical Association (CMA), recently published a report which includes spiritual care as an essential element of whole person health care for persons at the end of their lives. The document further concludes that spiritual care should be provided by professionally trained spiritual caregivers.

The document, A Primer on End-of Life Care, was published throughout California's medical institutions in March 1995. I became aware of this research through my membership in the Health Ministers Association.

I welcomed the opportunity to circulate among the medical staff of my hospital this important research, published by an authority they would accept, which supports the position advocated by the NACC that spiritual care is necessary in whole person health care.

Coincidentally, the publication of CMA's document corresponded with the publication by the Vatican of Pope John Paul II's encyclical, The Gospel of Life. Reading the two documents, one becomes aware of what the Judaic-Christian Scriptures add to human reason in ethical decision making.

Whereas the conclusions reached by CMA's authors and the Pope are identical, their reasoning process differs. CMA argues from a totally humanistic point of view. While he accepts all of CMA's insights, the Pope adds the wisdom gleaned from prayerful reflection on the Word of God. His Gospel of Life is a theological reflection on care for the dying, while CMA's document draws its conclusions solely...