Legislative efforts to legalize physician-assisted suicide have failed in two New England states, but Hawaii appears to be on the verge of enacting the practice.
If Hawaii legalizes assisted suicide, it will become the seventh state to do so, following California, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington – as well as the District of Columbia.
“Assisted suicide is an assault on dignity,” Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “Assisted suicide turns human life and death into marketable goods. Moreover, it undermines the inherent worth of every person, regardless of age, health or mental ability.”
Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, expressed his gratitude for the failure of bills in Massachusetts and Connecticut. “My prayer is that all of our states and citizens would promote legislation that honors human life rather than markets death,” he said.
Bills in both the Massachusetts and Connecticut legislatures failed to move beyond committees, assisted-suicide foes reported.
The Massachusetts Joint Committee on Public Health sent bills from both the Senate and House of Representatives to a study committee March 22, according to the Patients Rights Action Fund. That action effectively killed the legislation. A proposal in the Connecticut House died in committee, the disability rights organization Not Dead Yet said March 26.
The Hawaii House of Representatives, however, passed an assisted-suicide measure March 6 in a 39-12 vote. Two state Senate committees have approved the legislation since House passage. The most recent approval came in a March 23 vote by the state Senate Judiciary Committee. A Senate vote in favor of the bill seemingly would assure it becomes law. Gov. David Ige is on record in support of the proposal.
The legislative actions are the latest in the ongoing battle between advocates for and opponents of authorizing doctors to prescribe lethal drugs for people who want to end their lives. The proposals typically limit those receiving the lethal doses to people who have been diagnosed with terminal illnesses and supposedly have less than six months to live.
Legislators in at least 25 states proposed bills legalizing assisted suicide in their most recent sessions, according to the pro-assisted suicide Death With Dignity National Center.
Opponents of assisted suicide continue to defend the sanctity of human life for the terminally ill, the disabled and other vulnerable human beings.
Matt Valliere, executive director of the Patients Rights Action Fund, commended specifically those who helped kill the Massachusetts proposal.
“Assisted suicide is not medical treatment,” Valliere said in a written statement. “It is bad public policy that puts a great many at risk of deadly harm through mistakes, coercion and abuse.”
Marie Manis, Massachusetts campaign director for the pro-assisted suicide organization Compassion & Choices, said her group is “deeply disappointed” at the death of the bill in this session, the Boston Herald reported.
Advocates for assisted suicide in the state gained a boost in December when the Massachusetts Medical Society broke with the American Medical Association to switch its position from opposed to neutral.
Critics of assisted suicide charge that the practice is not only potentially abusive, but it already is being used in place of health care. Some Americans with terminal illnesses have reported Medicaid and/or their insurance companies have informed them they will pay for a lethal prescription but not drugs to treat their afflictions.
Messengers to the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention meeting adopted a resolution affirming “the dignity and sanctity of human life at all stages of development, from conception to natural death.” The resolution called on churches and Christians “to care for the elderly among us, to show them honor and dignity, and to prayerfully support and counsel those who are providing end-of-life care for the aged, the terminally ill, and the chronically infirmed.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)