Vermont fourth state to pass assisted suicide; Cardinal Sean O’Malley calls it ‘a tragic moment.’

From footballers to frenchmen, everybody is talking about gay marriage.

Gov. Peter Shumlin signs the end-of-life bill at the statehouse in Montpelier, Vt. on Monday, May 20, 2013. Vermont is now the fourth state in the country that allows physician assisted suicide. (AP Photo/The Burlington Free Press, Glenn Russell)

Gov. Peter Shumlin signs the end-of-life bill at the statehouse in Montpelier, Vt. on Monday, May 20, 2013. Vermont is now the fourth state in the country that allows physician assisted suicide. (AP Photo/The Burlington Free Press, Glenn Russell)

It seems to be the seminal issue of our time, one that crosses heavily into faith beliefs. So does assisted suicide. Last week, Vermont became the fourth U.S. state to legalize doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.

And the news passed with seemingly little notice outside Vermont. I didn’t even know three other states had already passed the law.

I find it quite interesting that one issue is dominating public discourse virtually around the world, while the other isn’t generating any headlines.

Maybe we care a heck of a lot more about living than we do dying? It’s possible.

It’s certainly not because assisted suicide isn’t contested by Americans. According to a HuffPost/YouGov poll last week, 50 percent of Americans say they think it should be legal for a doctor to assist a terminally ill patient in committing suicide if the patient requests it, while 29 percent said it should be illegal.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley was not pleased with Vermont’s decision. Chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, O’Malley warned of an “alarming trend nationwide” after Vermont legalized physician-assisted suicide May 20. He called for “all people of good will to fight the future passage of such laws.”

“I echo Bishop Matano of Burlington in calling this a tragic moment for Vermont. It is also a sign of an alarming trend nationwide. In the three states where physician-assisted suicide is now legal, doctors are called upon to destroy life, rather than to save life and provide much-needed comfort in times of pain and distress,” O’Malley said.

As someone who watched my father suffer through some indignities before passing earlier this year, I am torn on this issue. Most people place dying with dignity high on their list of wishes. But legalizing the right to end life just doesn’t feel right. O’Malley claimed it’s a “slippery slope” and I don’t think that point of view can be ignored.

What are your thoughts on assisted suicide? Why don’t more people care about this issue?

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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3 Responses to Vermont fourth state to pass assisted suicide; Cardinal Sean O’Malley calls it ‘a tragic moment.’

  1. Anne-Marie Hober says:

    First of all, I don’t think most people like to think about death, especially in our culture. Talking about it is frowned upon – not only is it depressing, religious beliefs rear their ugly heads and the discussion is over. Then something happens and forces you to think about it… my mother is 103 and suffers every minute of her existence. She has told me many times, Death is not the enemy. I will miss her but I will be happy when she is beyond pain and fear and loneliness. Seeing someone you love suffer is just dreadful.

  2. Célene Harrison says:

    I believe that everyone should have the right to assisted suicide. When someone reaches a point that they no longer wish to suffer they should have the right to die with dignity. Is it better to be in such awful pain that one attempts suicide alone, or have the ability to end the awful pain assisted by a physician? I chose the latter. My heart goes out to Ms. Hober and her mother.

  3. Cathy Harbert says:

    I am not a religious person, but even if I were I would want to make assisted suicide legal everywhere. I have watched my 94 year old stepfather die a terribly slow death in which he spent weeks drugged but not relieved of pain and out of his head, begging for death. I am watching my 91 year old mother live alone and ill in Texas when she would like to have the choice of dying in a peaceful way. For myself, I do not want to live beyond my ability to be independent, much less do I want to suffer. I don’t want to have to worry about being a burden on society if, despite my best efforts, I run out of money. I understand that some people are concerned about the possible abuse of assisted suicide, but I think that there are ways to prevent that. It would be much better than the cases of murder-suicides that we see among elderly people who have come to the end of their ability to cope with living with Alzheimer’s and other disabling illnesses. Not allowing assisted suicide for those who want it is inhumane. While our society does not approve of giving people the right to die with dignity, we are willing to let people live without dignity, and without proper care. I hope that when my husband and I can no longer live the lives that we want, there will be the option of assisted suicide.

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