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Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

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Bishop makes strong stand against assisted suicide push in Australia

Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

NEW SOUTH WALES, Australia, August 22, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Catholic leaders are appealing to Australian faithful to oppose a euthanasia bill before Parliament.

The Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2017 would allow doctors to end the lives of terminally ill patients as young as 25.  

Bishop Peter Comensoli heads a grassroots movement to stop the bill. “The true mark of our humanity is witnessed in the steadfast care we give to those we love as they are dying,” the bishop wrote in a letter to the faithful.

Comensoli’s diocese of Broken Bay in the southeastern part of the country has distributed a petition against the measure to 26 parishes and more than 40 schools.

The bishop implored his flock to “get behind this and have their voice heard.” He urged parishioners, school staff, and parents to contact their representatives and oppose the so-called mercy killing legislation.

He warned that the law “would radically abandon our deep human commitment not to deliberately take someone’s life.”

Comensoli has also sent the petition to the 10 other dioceses in New South Wales. He “strongly encourages” his brother bishops to distribute the material as widely as possible “to assist the people … informing their conscience about euthanasia.”

The bill stipulates that the patient seeking suicide must be diagnosed with a year or less to live. The diagnosis and the patient’s desire to die must be signed by two “medical practitioners.” Additionally, the dying patient must be “assessed” by a counselor.

Oregon’s Death with Dignity organization is supporting the legislation from the farthest corner of the world. Dr. Leigh Dolin, president of the Oregon Medical Association when the state passed its assisted-suicide law, will speak to parliament in support of the bill.

Death with Dignity National Center is an alliance of pro-suicide groups, including the former Hemlock Society. After a successful campaign in Oregon in 1997, Death with Dignity expanded to promote the legalization of assisted suicide nationwide.

Bishop Comensoli’s petition originated from Greg Donnelly, a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council. A conservative champion in parliament since 2005, Donnelly has also opposed abortion, homosexual “marriage,” same-sex couples’ adoption of children, pornography, and the “sexploitation” of women in advertising.

Supporters of assisted suicide criticized Bishop Comensoli for giving out the materials in schools, but Trevor Khan, a member of the Legislative Council, falsely assumed children were getting the material.

Comensoli corrected Khan, calling his criticism “disingenuous” and explaining that the brochure and petition have “gone to parents, and the way we do it in our diocese is in emails directly to parents.”

Countries with legalized assisted suicide have seen the law expand over time. Once thought of as only for the terminally ill with little time to live, “mercy killing” in the Netherlands now includes living patients enduring “unbearable” suffering with “no prospect of improvement.”  

Assisted killing then became accepted for people who could not decide for themselves, such as the mentally challenged and those suffering with dementia, and newborn infants can be “euthanized if a certain set of criteria are met.”  

Euthanasia also expanded to children as young as 12 with parental consent and as young as 15 without a guardian’s permission. Now Dutch leaders advocate assisted suicide for people who are not dying at all but simply feel their life no longer has purpose.

“The Dutch government wants to adjust the Euthanasia Act so that people who aren’t sick, but feel that their life is completed, can end their lives with assisted suicide,” the Netherlands Times reported.

An additional criticism of assisted suicide laws is the temptation for insurance companies to take advantage of patients considered too expensive to keep alive. Adult children of terminal patients can become overly eager to receive their inheritance.

Critics say there are few safeguards to ensure against elder abuse. Life Legal Defense Foundation’s Alexandra Snyder pointed out that there is no way to determine if a patient is coerced into taking the lethal prescription. Legalized suicides are not investigated and so the law “takes away certain legal protections that were afforded people who were sick and elderly and otherwise vulnerable.”

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition’s Alex Schadenberg warned, “Once a nation permits doctors, or others, to kill their people by lethal injection, then that nation has opened the door to an ever expanding option to kill.”

Many native Australians are opposed to assisted suicide. The Remote Area Health Corps “Cultural Orientation Handbook” notes that Aboriginals are “afraid” of euthanasia.  

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