physician-assisted suicide

When is mortal sin not that big a deal? The National Post debates 'medically assisted death'

When is mortal sin not that big a deal? The National Post debates 'medically assisted death'

News stories about issues in medical ethics -- take physician-assisted suicide, for example -- tend to be rather complicated affairs.

Add in ultimate questions about Catholic theology and things get even more complicated. Changing the name of the procedure in question to "medically assisted death" doesn't erase the moral and doctrinal questions involved in all of this.

Thus, editors at The National Post had to know they were headed into tricky territory when working on a recent story that ran with this headline: "Catholics hoping for a funeral after assisted death face different answers from different churches." Read the following carefully -- Catholic readers, especially -- and see if you can spot any problems that start right at the top of this story.

VANCOUVER -- A proper funeral is far more than an end-of-life celebration for practising Catholics, who believe last rites cleanse the soul of sin in preparation for eternal life in heaven.
But for the faithful questioning whether those final sacraments are available to a loved one who has chosen a medically assisted death, the answer may depend on whom in the church they ask.

See the problem? Have the journalists who worked on this story confused Catholic teachings about funerals with teachings about what are commonly known as the "Last Rites," in which a priest -- whenever possible -- hears a dying person's final Confession and offers absolution? The crucial Catechism reference states:

In addition to the Anointing of the Sick, the Church offers those who are about to leave this life the Eucharist as viaticum. Communion in the body and blood of Christ, received at this moment of "passing over" to the Father, has a particular significance and importance. It is the seed of eternal life and the power of resurrection. ... The sacrament of Christ once dead and now risen, the Eucharist is here the sacrament of passing over from death to life, from this world to the Father.

A funeral service may be "final" rites for the deceased, but they are not the Last Rites, in the traditional sense. So, does the funeral service itself "cleanse the soul of sin in preparation for eternal life in heaven"?

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Lack of compassion or something else? Why Canada's Catholic hospitals won't help patients die

Lack of compassion or something else? Why Canada's Catholic hospitals won't help patients die

We live in interesting times, eh.

In a story in The Globe and Mail, a Toronto-based Canadian national newspaper, a physician upset that a Catholic hospital won't participate in assisted suicide (although that term isn't used) gets heroic coverage.

The lede:

A Vancouver Island doctor is resigning from the ethics committee at a local Catholic hospital because it refuses to offer assisted dying on site, a stand that he says is unnecessarily causing critically ill patients more suffering as they are transferred to facilities dozens of kilometres away.
Jonathan Reggler, a general physician who makes daily patient visits to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Comox, said he knew the facility, like other faith-based hospitals across the country, had developed a “strict” policy of transferring patients asking for assisted deaths.
But it wasn’t until recently, he says, that such patients began streaming into St. Joseph’s – and transferring out – after a federal law came into force June 17 that legalized medically assisted dying for patients whose suffering is intolerable and whose deaths are reasonably foreseeable.
“We’re talking about very sick patients having to be transferred – people who are close to death – and it’s wrong,” Dr. Reggler said.

Later, the newspaper introduces the question of Catholic hospitals' continued funding:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

A suicide party? Moral and religious questions? Associated Press draws a blank

A suicide party? Moral and religious questions? Associated Press draws a blank

Ever hear of a suicide party?

There was such an event in San Diego in July and the Associated Press was there to tell us the details. The piece came with photos of a party with a 41-year-old woman who was sometimes sitting up, other times lying down. However, she could not stand or walk nor move her arms and her speech was so slurred, most had problems understanding her.

Still, what would you do if you were invited to such an event? Would you raise any questions of a moral or religious nature? We will come back to that.

SAN DIEGO -- In early July, Betsy Davis emailed her closest friends and relatives to invite them to a two-day party, telling them: “These circumstances are unlike any party you have attended before, requiring emotional stamina, centeredness and openness.”
And just one rule: No crying in front of her.
The 41-year-old artist with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, held the gathering to say goodbye before becoming one of the first Californians to take a lethal dose of drugs under the state's new doctor-assisted suicide law for the terminally ill.
“For me and everyone who was invited, it was very challenging to consider, but there was no question that we would be there for her,” said Niels Alpert, a cinematographer from New York City. “The idea to go and spend a beautiful weekend that culminates in their suicide — that is not a normal thing, not a normal, everyday occurrence. In the background of the lovely fun, smiles and laughter that we had that weekend was the knowledge of what was coming.”
Davis worked out a detailed schedule for the gathering on the weekend of July 23-24, including the precise hour she planned to slip into a coma. ...

The article described the party, and then its end:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Gov. Jerry Brown's Catholicity vs. euthanasia decision gets above-the-fold ink

Gov. Jerry Brown's Catholicity vs. euthanasia decision gets above-the-fold ink

Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old Californian who moved to Oregon last year so she could end her life instead of facing the last stages of brain cancer, got her political revenge this week.

That's the reality in the news coverage. That’s because -- unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere -- California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill making assisted suicide legal. Which opened the gates to this controversial personal or family choice to some 38 million people overnight.

And the Los Angeles Times reporter who covered it did a great job of making the religion angle front and center. That is, the Catholic governor of the country’s most populous state did something totally against his religion, but readers got to learn about how that decision played out. Start reading here:

Caught between conflicting moral arguments, Gov. Jerry Brown, a former Jesuit seminary student, signed a measure Monday allowing physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminally ill patients who want to hasten their deaths.
Brown appeared to struggle in deciding whether to approve the bill, whose opponents included the Catholic Church.
“In the end, I was left to reflect on what I would want in the face of my own death,” Brown wrote in a signing message. “I do not know what I would do if I were dying in prolonged and excruciating pain. I am certain, however, that it would be a comfort to be able to consider the options afforded by this bill. And I wouldn’t deny that right to others.”

After explaining some provisions of the End of Life Option Act and placing a quote by its opponents quite high in the story, the reporter swung back to Brown, who said he had weighed the religious arguments.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

AP has Catholics standing alone, sort of, in debates over California right-to-die bill

AP has Catholics standing alone, sort of, in debates over California right-to-die bill

Last time I checked, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has quite a few congregations in the state of California.

The same thing is true for the Southern Baptists, the Assemblies of God and the whole world of nondenominational evangelical Protestantism. Can you say Vineyards? Surely there are quite a few mosques, Orthodox Jewish synagogues and Hindu sanctuaries, as well.

Why do I make this rather obvious point?

Check out the top of this recent Associated Press report about the latest front in the political and moral wars over the whole right to die, death with dignity, physician-assisted suicide, euthanasia question. Spot anything strange?

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Legislation that would allow California physicians to help terminally ill patients end their lives has met strong opposition from lawmakers in Catholic districts and others. ...

Aid-in-dying advocates hoped the nationally publicized case of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old California woman with brain cancer who moved to Oregon to legally end her life last fall, would prompt a wave of new state laws allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending
medications. But no state has passed right-to-die legislation this year, and efforts have been defeated or stalled in Colorado, Maine, New Jersey and elsewhere.

And there's more:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Pod people: Talking scare quotes, red flags and other 'controversial' tools of religion journalism

Pod people: Talking scare quotes, red flags and other 'controversial' tools of religion journalism

Got style?

In a couple of recent posts, I've delved into the nitty-gritty of religion news writing.

In one post, I focused on the specific language used in a USA Today story on Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

In another post, I tackled the subject of scare quotes — a term that is familiar to regular Get Religion readers.

On this week's episode of "Crossroads," the GetReligion podcast, host Todd Wilken and I discuss both those posts. Click here to tune in.

Besides addressing those posts, my interview with Wilken turns into a conversation about another recent post — this one on the use of the adjective "controversial" in journalism.

Trust me, it's fascinating stuff.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

'Physician-assisted suicide' gets scare quotes, but 'aid-in-dying' doesn't. Why?

'Physician-assisted suicide' gets scare quotes, but 'aid-in-dying' doesn't. Why?

Let's talk scare quotes for a moment.

Regular GetReligion readers know what we mean when we use that term.

But in case you're new to this nerdy journalism site focused on mass media coverage of religion news, click here to review past examples.

I bring up this topic again today because of a note I received from a regular reader, who opined:

Notice how whenever the Left invents a new phrase, the media adopt it immediately and uncritically, while well-known, long-understood and uncontroversial words and phrases get scare quotes? Oh, of course you do.
"Aid-in-dying" gets no scare quotes, while "religious freedom" always does? 

The reader included a link to a San Francisco Chronicle story.

Actually, the Chronicle lede does include scare quotes — just not around the phrase 'aid-in-dying":

SACRAMENTO — The California Medical Association has become the first state medical association in the nation to drop opposition to what has long been known as “physician-assisted suicide,” it said, acknowledging a shift in doctor and patient attitudes about end-of-life and aid-in-dying options.

Please respect our Commenting Policy