Respect Life Blog

Because we can see them

Date posted: July 24, 2018

By Kathleen M. Gallagher

Like most people, I was glued to the news about the boys’ soccer team lost inside a cave in Thailand. I prayed every day, first, that they would be found, and once they were, that somehow they could be successfully rescued. I rejoiced when they emerged from that deep, dark, wet cavern into the sunlight, and thanked God for the resiliency of human life and the strength of the human spirit. The entire world was riveted because each of those human lives was a vulnerable, innocent, unrepeatable gift, and they were miraculously saved.

Perhaps unlike most people, I also thought about the vulnerability and innocence of unborn human lives. Like the camera that snaked way down into that crevice in the ground in southeast Asia, ultrasound technology has given us a window into the womb, where we can watch unborn infants sucking their thumbs, kicking their feet, even getting the hiccups. We know they are alive and growing in there because we can see them. More

We need consistent messages about suicide prevention

Date posted: June 8, 2018
Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain

Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain

By Kathleen M. Gallagher

The recent suicides of designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain highlight a deeply disturbing trend in the United States. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reveals that suicides are climbing in the United States. The suicide rate went up more than 30% in half of the states around the country since 1999. In New York State, the increase was 29%. In just one year alone (2016) in the U.S., 45,000 lives were lost to suicide. It is now the tenth leading cause of death in the country. For certain this is a public health crisis.

And I can’t help but think about how the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in some states may be contributing to this crisis. There’s a thing called “suicide contagion,” and it’s real – exposure to, and acceptance of, suicide will increase the risk of suicide to others. Take Vermont, for example, which enacted doctor-assisted suicide in 2013; their suicide rate has jumped almost 49%.

I recommend this page from the CDC website, which offers all the statistics, plus excellent tips on preventing suicide. Among the tips are these, which I note with some irony:

  • Promote safe and supportive environments. This includes safely storing medications…to reduce access among people at risk. But wait, physician-assisted suicide encourages terminally ill suicidal people to bring those very medications home with them!
  • Teach coping and problem-solving skills to help people manage challenges with their…health or other concerns. Physician-assisted suicide tells patients with health problems the very opposite – they can’t manage, so give up, lose hope, end it all.
  • Offer activities that bring people together so they feel connected and not alone. A policy of physician-assisted suicide abandons people and leaves them isolated and afraid. We need to engage with them and accompany them so they will not feel hopeless.

The same CDC website lists the 12 warning signs that someone might be at risk of suicide. The first one listed is “feeling like a burden,” one of the top reasons given by terminal patients for wanting life-ending drugs in those states which have legalized assisted suicide.

This isn’t rocket science. Suicide is suicide is suicide, and we should be working hard to reduce its incidence among all people, for any reason. And that includes terminally ill people who may feel devastated, depressed, alone, and burdensome. We need consistent messages about suicide prevention.

Assisted suicide “safeguards” revealed as a con

Date posted: January 9, 2017

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

large_article_im418_assisted_suicide_hands_picnikIn a very revealing commentary published at last month, long-time assisted suicide advocate Kathryn Tucker admits that the so-called “safeguards” included in physician-assisted suicide proposals aren’t really safeguards at all. In fact, she calls them “burdens,” “restrictions,” and “barriers.” She thinks it’s unfortunate that these restrictions are included in the laws of Oregon and Vermont, and laments the fact that the recently-passed District of Columbia Act includes them as well.

Tucker says the safeguards “impose heavy governmental intrusion into the practice of medicine.” She points to Montana as the solution – there, the state’s high court allows doctor-assisted suicide without any safeguards at all; it’s all subject to a doctor’s judgment about the “best standard of care.”

Well, you have to give her points for honesty. It’s refreshing at least. For years now the proponents of these suicide bills have been selling them to state lawmakers with their promise of “strict safeguards” to ensure there is no abuse or coercion in the way the laws are carried out. In contrast, those of us who have opposed physician-assisted suicide have consistently argued that the so-called “safeguards” in these bills are a con — as Wesley Smith has cleverly noted, they are the “honey to help make the hemlock go down.”

New York State lawmakers should not be fooled. No strict “guidelines” or “safeguards” can prevent the financial pressures, mistaken diagnoses, subtle coercion and other dangers that will inevitably accompany a policy of legalized death-making.

Take Heart!

Date posted: May 26, 2016

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

On Monday, May 23, the members of the Assembly Health Committee voted to release a dangerous physician-assisted suicide bill, A.10059/S.7579. Many opponents of assisted suicide were deeply disappointed, even discouraged. And rightly so – it was a step in the wrong direction for our state.

But do not lose heart! There were actually some very encouraging signs in this vote. First and foremost, the bill got through the committee by only the narrowest of margins; just one more vote would have kept the bill in committee. That does not happen often in a committee that is purposefully stacked with anti-life votes.

Second, six Democratic members of the Assembly (yes, six!), five of whom are self-described “pro-choneedleice” members, voted against the bill. Their votes demonstrate to their Democratic colleagues that this issue is not a liberal litmus test – one can be a self-described “progressive” and be deeply concerned about the vulnerable populations who will be harmed by this legislation. More than a few committee members – of both political parties — spoke of the unacceptable risks to the elderly, the isolated and people with disabilities that would come from legalizing assisted suicide.

Finally, the bill did not move to the Assembly floor for a vote; it was simply sent to another committee, the Assembly Codes Committee, and no votes have been scheduled there. Nor are any votes scheduled in any Senate committees. The 2016 State Legislative Session is scheduled to conclude on June 16, and we are hopeful that this legislation will perish at that time, at least until next year, when we anticipate the battle will be rejoined.

Please continue to pray for a Culture of Life, and continue to educate others — including your own elected officials —  about the risks of legalizing physician-assisted suicide. Excellent resources can be found here and here.

Oregon data reveals risks of assisted suicide

Date posted: February 18, 2016

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

The state of Oregon is out with its most recent statistical report about how the assisted suicide law is working. The data (and it can’t be considered complete data because assisted suicide deaths are not reported as such under the law) is most revealing…and frightening. First off, there has been a marked spike in the reported number of patients requesting assisted suicide. From the time the law was enacted through 2013, the number of lethal prescriptions written increased about 12% each year. But in 2014 and 2015, the number of prescriptions written jumped by more than 24%. That is likely the result of branding and marketing by the suicide advocates, who used the face of Brittany Maynard to promote their cause.

But contrary to that campaign, the Oregon data reveals that the typical assisted suicide patient is elderly, alone, dependent on others, and dependent on government health insurance. The top three reasons for requesting lethal drugs under the law are not reasons of physical pain or suffering; they are 1) decreasing ability to participate in enjoyable activities; 2) loss of autonomy; and loss of dignity.

My colleague Ed Mechmann in the Archdiocese of New York does a great job of breaking down the numbers — and the dangers — in his column here.

The full 2015 Oregon report is available here.

Mercy is where love meets suffering

Date posted: January 4, 2016

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

The definition of “mercy” and the mission of Calvary Hospital in the Bronx were the inspiration for my Christmas column this year. I realize it is a bit tardy for the Christmas Season, but I believe the column is worthwhile reading for anytime during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Take a look here, as published in The Tablet, the newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.

Deadly drugs

Date posted: December 1, 2015

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

On Sunday I happened to catch CBS’ “60 Minutes” new episode about the death penalty. It highlighted the case of an Arizona prisoner who was sentenced to die by lethal injection. The state had tried a new combination of drugs for this execution, and instead of death within a few minutes, as expected, it took two hours and 15 injections of drugs to kill the man, who lay gasping and gulping on the gurney. According to the correspondent on 60 Minutes, things went “horribly awry.”Pills

The episode focused on the increasing difficulty states are having in finding execution drugs. Apparently many drug companies have banned the use of their drugs for capital punishment, leaving states to try new drugs, or cocktails of drugs, that will work, and will work in a way that is not considered barbaric or “cruel and unusual.”

So here’s my question:  Since it doesn’t appear that states are having any trouble finding the lethal drugs to use in assisted suicides, why can’t they just use those for executions? Assisted suicide advocates repeatedly remind us that when terminally ill patients self-administer their pills, they simply close their eyes and die a “peaceful” and “humane” death. Now that five states have legalized the practice, with California being the latest and the largest — and even more states considering legalization — the drugs can’t be that hard to come by, can they?

Additional questions:

  • Could it be that the lethal drugs used in assisted suicides don’t always lead to “peaceful” deaths? I mean, how would we know, really?
  • Do you think that pharmaceutical companies will ever ban the use of their drugs for assisted suicides the way they’ve banned them for executions? Ha! That would be political correctness gone horribly awry!

Note: This blog post is purposefully facetious and intended to make a point: Human life is sacred. It is always sacred, no matter whether the life is a convicted killer sitting on death row or a terminally ill cancer patient in his own bedroom. States should not be in the business of killing them or assisting in their deaths in any way.

Planned Parenthood and the invisible children

Date posted: August 11, 2015

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

By now you have probably seen, or at least heard about, the videotapes on which Planned Parenthood officials speak bluntly about trafficking in the organs and tissues of aborted babies. unbornHere’s my take, as published in The Tablet, the newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.

Assisted suicide is an invitation to abuse

Date posted: May 6, 2015

needleby Kathleen M. Gallagher

Legislation to legalize physician-assisted suicide has been introduced in New York State, and organizations like Final Exit Network are all in. They say that absolutely no abuses have taken place in states where doctor-assisted suicide is legal.

How could they possibly know that? Under the law, doctors who “aid-in-dying” are required to state untruthfully on the death certificate that their patient’s cause of death was their underlying illness, and not the lethal dose of drugs they prescribed that killed them. There is absolutely no way to track abuses. This same provision is in the New York Senate proposal, by the way. More

The slippery slope is real

Date posted: March 5, 2015

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

Oregon was the first state in the nation to legalize doctor-assisted suicide. Proponents of the law, which was established by a ballot measure in 1994, convinced a majority of voters that the law had certain “restrictions” and “safeguards,” including that doses of lethal drugs would be strictly limited to patients diagnosed with a terminal illness who were expected to die within 6 months.

Well here we are, more than 20 years later, and Oregon proponents are now pushing for changes to the law. They have introduced a bill, HB 3337, which expands the pool of eligible patients to those expected to die within 12 months.

I recall clearly the words of Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian, who admitted to assisting in the suicides of more than 130 people: “What difference does it make if someone is ‘terminal’? We are all terminal.”

And so we see the true aim of the proponents of euthanasia: death on demand. If assisted suicide continues to be permitted as a “personal choice,” and the movement framed as a “civil rights” battle, it will be impossible to limit it to certain populations or specific circumstances. It will be a right for the terminal and the non-terminal, for the competent and the incompetent, the old and the young, the rich and the poor, those who freely choose it and those who are pressured to accept it. And that puts all of us at risk.

The slippery slope is real.