End of Life Issues

Archbishop Lori’s Letter to Catholics

Wednesday, March 13, 2018


Dear Friends in Christ,

Our Christian and Catholic faith compels us to speak out on matters that stand in violation of the dignity of the human person. Here in the State of Maryland, members of the General Assembly are considering legislation that would legalize physician-assisted suicide. This, of course, would violate God’s most sacred gift and enable individuals to arbitrarily decide when life is no longer worthwhile – no longer worth living.

Just days after the Maryland House of Delegates narrowly voted 74 to 66 to advance legislation legalizing physician-assisted suicide, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee is expected to meet as early as this Thursday, March 14, to consider advancing its version of the bill, SB 311, to the Senate floor for a vote.

If passed, the bill would allow terminally ill patients to be prescribed a lethal dose of a controlled dangerous substance, which they would then pick-up at their local pharmacy and ingest without medical supervision to end their life. This bill, in addition to having no regard for the worth and dignity of every human life, establishes suicide as a societal norm, places large quantities of Schedule II prescription drugs into our communities with no measures in place for take-back or disposal, and leaves those suffering from mental illness, persons with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and our elderly at risk of coercion and undue influence by family members or caregivers.

Both chambers must agree on and pass the same version of the bill in order for it to be sent the Governor for a signature or veto, so there is still time to stop this dangerous bill from passing in Maryland!

I invite all Catholics across the Archdiocese of Baltimore to voice their opposition and to take action to oppose the so-called “End of Life Option Act.” We have made it easy to do so – and ask you to go to this specially-designated website that will register your opposition to State lawmakers. It only takes a moment. Please click HERE

Thank you for witnessing to our common faith and standing with us against this legislation that would allow the casual disregard for God’s greatest gift – human life.

Faithfully in Christ,

Most Reverend William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore
Archdiocese of Baltimore
320 Cathedral Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

In a spirit of prayer and humility, let us call upon the God of Wisdom and Grace.  When we talk about the “end of life” issues, we are likely to invoke our own experiences of loss and death.  We may remember our parents and grandparents, or even tragically children or siblings.  No experience is the exact same.  No death is without sadness, just as no death is without the grace and presence of Christ, as hard as it may be to recognize.

Currently, in the State of Maryland, our legislature is considering a very dangerous bill, HB399 / SB311, entitled “End of Life Option Act”.  At its core, the bill is about physicians assisted suicide.  On the 1st Sunday of Lent, March 10, my bulletin letter included:

Last weekend, I spoke about the MarylandLegislature and “The End of Life Options Act” or HB 399.  Following a dangerous trend of other states(and the District of Columbia), Physician Assisted Suicide is dangerous for ourculture and society.  Looking at theHippocratic Oath which has been the core of the doctor’s identity for two andhalf millennium, the oath emphasizes the doctor’s role of helping the sick accordingto their ability and judgment (regardless of the class or economics of thepatient).  The doctor’s work is neverwith a view to injury or wrong doing. The oath specifically states that they will never “administer poison toanybody when asked to do so”.  As a side,they also include in the oath, never participating in an abortion.  While the phrase primum non nocere (first, dono harm), does not formally appear in the oath, it is a good summary.  Assisting suicide is far from doing no harm.

  Beside the moral and philosophical objections,which are enough to oppose this bill, the bill also has many logisticalnightmares.  The drugs used are similarto those used by some states for capital punishment, in which there are thoseready to respond to a problem immediately. This bill proposes has no doctor nor nurse present at the time of takingthe drugs.  The bill has no criteria forbeing diagnosed as terminal within 6 months, and there are a lot ofdiscrepancies in these diagnoses.  Thebill can leave the individual alone, as no family has to be notified, nor atest to check the mental health of the individual.  And then, the drugs can be easily in wronghands, with the prescription filled, no one to monitor what happens to thedrugs.  What if they are not alltaken?  Please check out bit.ly/2XG5UcO and consider reaching outto our elected representatives.

  Interested in learning more about PhysicianAssisted Suicide in general.  Considerrecorded presentation of Dr. William Toffler, MD., “I Will Give No Deadly Drug:My Journey on the Oregon Trail and Physician Assisted Suicide” on Saturday,March 16 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help (4795 Illchester Road, Ellicott City21043) sponsored by the Baltimore Guild of the Catholic Medical Association.  Schedule begins with 8:15am Mass, followed bylight refreshments, 9:30am showing of the film, and 10:15am brief discussionand commentary.  Open to medicalprofessionals and the interested public. No cost (but with suggested donation of $10).  RSVP by March 11 to BaltGuildCMA@gmail.com or(202)256-9987.

I encourage each parishioner to learn more, to pray and discern.  The Maryland Catholic Conference assists in communication about important bills as well as assisting us in reaching out to our legislators.  Join at mdcatholic.org/joincan

Learn more and follow the Bills in the Legislature

Learn about this particular issues and the HB399 / SB311

Inspiring story of Dr. George Hennawi, and his care for elderly patients:

Learn about the effects from Oregon’s Law, the first in the Nation from a study by Richard M. Doerflinger, M.A., from the Charlotte Lozier Institute, entitled,
“Oregon’s Assisted Suicides: The Up-to-Date Reality in 2017”

My Letter to the Honorable Christopher West, State Senator of District 42

TheHonorable Christopher R. West
Maryland State Legislature
James Senate Office Building, Room 303
11 Bladen Street
Annapolis, Maryland 21401

8 March 2019

Dear Senator West,
  Greetings from Northern Baltimore County.  As a resident and Catholic Pastor of District 42, I am deeply concerned about the recent passing of HB399, and the current consideration profits counterpart SB311 in the State Senate.  While I have read the proposed bill, the “End of Life Option Act”, I am not going to primarily address the particular concerns of the proposed law.  I share many concerns that have been voiced, at the heart of which is the desire to promote the dignity of life.  I see this bill as continuing to erode our society’s appreciation of life at all stages.  Life is not less valuable when sickness, illness,or suffering is involved.  It is then that we most affirm the value and dignity of life.  Moreover, I share the concerns, which I would summarize as first, the degradation of the Medical Profession and the ancient Oath to treat illness and not be instruments of further death and destruction, second, from own experience with my father terminal diagnosis are often very inaccurate and scientifically debatable, third, the minimal effort to ensure basic mental health screening for these at risk patients, fourth, the family are not notified potentially leading to more isolation, fifth, the drugs are similar to those receiving Capital Punishment (another topic) though in this case the individual does not have professionals present for prompt response to any issues or complications and may lead to greater suffering albeit unintended,and lastly, the drugs are a filled prescription which may or may not be taken (and if only partially taken, not secured) and may result in being cut with other dangerous drugs leading to unintended deaths.
  As I mentioned though, my letter is not primarily meant to speak to these legal concerns but I would like to address my own experiences with death and my faith.  As a pastor, I have been present to many individuals in hospice or being treated with potentially terminal illnesses, as well as journeying with their families.  As a grandson and a son, I have witnesses three grandparents and my father, all in hospice care and losing basic faculties.  Suffering is sad.  I am not trying to sugar coat these experiences.  On three occasions, I have been present for the last breaths.  Yet, in these times, sometimes weeks, months, and in one memorable case in hospice and palliative care for over two years, they are grace-filled moments.  Families reaffirm their priorities.  They are given the opportunity to show their love and compassion.  They make great sacrifices to be with them, to care for them,and to support them.  In some instances, there are great reconciliations, as family members who have not spoken or harbored grudges are reconnected either with their dying relative or a fellow loved one.
  Our society fears death. This is not new to human experience.  Parents will often try to shield their children from loss, pain, and suffering, understandably.  There are gradual shifts away from Church or faith based celebrations.  There are less and less families gathering at the Funeral Homes for viewings and wakes.  Yet, those who experience the greatest healing in my experience after loss, are those who unite with family and friends and share that loss together.  They reminisce about “better times” and remember the funny and joyous memories.
  I do not advocate legislating particular funeral practices, nor would that be fruitful in obtaining the outcome I suggest.  But I see the Physician Assisted Suicide as only continuing this cultural and societal fear of death and distancing ourselves. I see this bill as a catalyst to ongoing demolishing of families, which is at the core of our identity (far more important than even our identity as Americans or Christians).  Our society will be strengthened if we support laws that promote values that cultivate strong families and unity among communities.  As we value the weakest and most vulnerable of our society, it is then that the strength of our society may be witnessed.
  I understand that you have personal experience, and you have advocated for studying end of life issues,under the title “Death with Dignity.”  This death with dignity cannot be achieved by legalizing suicide, even in the last phases of life.  The dignity is upheld by the family member holding their hand.  It is painful.  Suffering though is not the enemy to be avoided at all costs.
  I pray that you will reconsider your position and support of this bill.  Please vote against Senate Bill311.
In the Lord,
Fr. Michael S. Triplett
Our Lady of Grace
18310 Middletown Road
Parkton, Maryland 21120