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Bishop calls assisted suicide ‘affront to the dignity of life’ on eve of legalization

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A New Jersey bishop has issued a renewed condemnation of assisted suicide as a new law making it legal in the state comes in to force this week. Bishop James E. Checchio of Metuchen described assisted suicide as “a grievous affront to the dignity of human life” that “can never be morally justified” in a letter to his diocese on July 30.

“Passage of this law points to the utter failure of government, and indeed all society, to care truly, authentically and humanely for the suffering and vulnerable in our midst, especially those living with an incurable disease as well as the frail elderly, the infirm and those living with disabilities,” said Checchio.

The Medical Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act allows mentally competent New Jersey residents with a terminal diagnosis and six months to live to request medication to end their lives. The law, which comes into effect August 1, mandates that patients self-administer the deadly drugs.

Checchio said that even though the practice is soon to be legal in New Jersey, it remained gravely immoral, and warned that assisted suicide was a particular threat to the elderly who could “feel undue pressure to view this as an option to prevent being a burden to others.”

The bishop also warned that younger generations would come to view the practice of the elderly, sick, and disabled killing themselves as normal.

“With this law there will be a further desensitization of the value of human life,” said Checchio.

Catholics “are called to show a different approach to death and the dying; one which accompanies every person as they are dying and allows them to love and to be loved to the very end.”

The Diocese of Metuchen sponsors Saint Peter’s University Hospital, which is compliant with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs). The ERDs prohibit Catholic health care facilities from condoning or participating with euthanasia or assisted suicide.

“Our hospital will not be cooperating with this moral evil,” said Checchio.

Instead of assisted suicide, Cecchio called for a renewed commitment caring for those living in pain and suffering while dying and who might otherwise consider assisted suicide.

Checchio said that although society is facing “dark times” with the passage of the new law, the Church “will not stop from advocating for the sanctity of human life, in all stages” and will continue to work to educate legislators and the general public about the dangers of medical aid in dying.

“Let us strive to help the sick and incapacitated find meaning in their lives, even and especially in the midst of their suffering,” said the bishop. “Let us, as a society and as individuals choose to walk with them, in their suffering, not contribute to eliminating the gift of life.”

New Jersey’s governor, Phil Murphy, is a practicing Catholic and said that his faith caused him to hesitate before signing the bill into law.

“After careful consideration, internal reflection, and prayer, I have concluded that, while my faith may lead me to a particular decision for myself, as a public official I cannot deny this alternative to those who may reach a different conclusion,” said Murphy in April upon signing the law.

“I believe this choice is a personal one and, therefore, signing this legislation is the decision that best respects the freedom and humanity of all New Jersey residents,” he added.