New York Catholic Conference Claps Back At Cuomo Over Assisted Suicide Comments

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Currents News Staff

In an interview on public radio, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would back legislation enabling terminally ill people to request life-ending medication, saying “I say pass the bill. It’s a controversial issue, it’s a difficult issue. But the older we get and the better medicine gets the more we’ve seen people suffer for too long.”

These were the Governor’s first public comments about physician-assisted suicide. Though his comments were brief, the process is not as simple.

According to the New York Medical Aid in Dying Act, currently under consideration in both the Assembly and Senate, terminally ill adults with a prognosis of six months or less can request life-ending medication from their physician.

At least two doctors must confirm the patient is eligible for medical aid and capable of making an informed decision about their own health care.

Additionally, the patient must be able to take the medication themselves.

Reaction to the governor’s support of the suicide bill, has been swift. Dennis Poust, a spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference called Cuomo’s backing unexpected.

“We’re distressed to hear the governor’s remarks yesterday, we know where he stands on a lot of issues, this is one where he’s never shown his cards before so it was something new for everyone on both sides of the issue,” said Poust.

This is not the first-time lawmakers have considered such a bill. Previous efforts stalled after opposition from the Catholic church and when republicans controlled the state Senate.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, leader of the Brooklyn Diocese, strongly opposes the measure. He criticized lawmakers in February of this year, saying –in part:

“They are not so much concerned with the merits of policy, but simple political opportunism. Not satisfied with the destruction of human life up until the moment of birth, our leaders wish to make it easier to take a vulnerable human life that is suffering from the ravages of old age and illness. The proposed assisted suicide legislation is as merciful as much as the reproductive health act is about healthcare.”

Dennis Poust, echoes the bishop’s concerns. He believes the law could set a dangerous precedent, and recent studies show suicide is on the rise, especially among young people.

“Young people are committing suicide in greater numbers. We have people who feel isolated and depressed. Now we’re sending a message instead of life is worth living, suicide is always wrong, we’re sending a different message. We’re saying actually sometimes suicide is right,” said Poust.

Despite the Catholic Church’s vigilant pushback against any legalization of assisted suicide, similar laws are already on the books in seven states: New Jersey, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Montana and The District of Columbia.

Poust believes all opponents of the bill, not just Catholics, should not give in to pressure from lawmakers:

“This isn’t a Catholic issue. This is an issue of what’s best for society; it’s an issue involving people with disabilities and the elderly and people who have depression,” he said.

Just a couple of weeks ago in Maryland, a measure that would have legalized medically assisted suicide was defeated.

Poust sees this as a positive sign, saying “we’re going to fight this, we’re going to continue to fight it.”