WASHINGTON (April 9, 1997) -- In a letter to members of Congress, an official of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) urged support for the Assisted Suicide Funding Restriction Act.
"The bill's central goal is both modest and urgently necessary: ensuring that the federal government will play no part in legitimizing and institutionalizing assisted suicide as a response to health problems," said Richard M. Doerflinger, Associate Director for Policy Development, NCCB Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities.
The bill, H.R 1003, was approved 45-2 by the House Commerce Committee. The full House is expected to vote April 10.
Included with the letter to Congress were excerpts from testimony last month by Cardinal Bernard Law, Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee for Pro-Life Activities, before the House Commerce Committee, and a statement by Archbishop Francis E. George, newly appointed Archbishop of Chicago, which was made public today by the National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities. Archbishop George is episcopal moderator of that agency.
In the letter, Mr. Doerflinger said H.R. 1003 will prevent the use of federal funds and health programs to support and facilitate assisted suicide, even if the practice becomes legal in one or more states. But he noted the bill will not prevent a state from legalizing assisted suicide or supporting it with state funds, and will have no effect on distinct issues such as abortion, withdrawal of medical treatment, or the use of drugs needed to alleviate pain when life may be shortened as an unintended side-effect.
"Due to its clear and limited scope, H.R. 1003 has received strong bipartisan support and been endorsed by religious, medical and disability rights leaders who may differ on other issues," Mr. Doerflinger stated.
He observed that the bill, as reported, encourages the Department of Health and Human Services to fund demonstration projects for improved care for persons with disabilities and terminal illness, to emphasize palliative care in its programs, and to study the adequacy of current medical school curricula on pain management.
Archbishop George, in the statement released by the National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities, expressed the hope that the legislation will be passed by both Houses of Congress.
"I join in support of those people with disabilities who fear the consequences when doctors are licensed and paid to kill," Archbishop George said. "I join my fellow bishops in urging that federal funds not be used to fuel euthanasia in America. We are called to heal and support, not destroy our fragile and disabled brothers and sisters."
The National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities is the voice of the U.S. Catholic bishops in encouraging and supporting efforts to build inclusion and welcome for 10 million Catholics with disabilities and their families into the Church and within the total fabric of society.