Ethics Committee Statement on Massachusetts Initiative

NCPD Ethics Committee Issues Statement

Why People with Disabilities Have an Interest in Defeating Initiative Petition 1112

Initiative Petition 1112 will allow Massachusetts residents to ask their physicians for lethal medication to kill themselves. Presently, it authorizes only those with terminal diseases to make such request. Nevertheless, if adopted, it will create a real threat to all people with disabilities.

The fact is that people with terminal diseases are disabled. Under Massachusetts law, “handicap” includes any physical impairment that “substantially limits one or more major life activities [,]” such as “caring for one's self,” “performing manual tasks,” or even “breathing.” Few, if any, terminal diseases would fall outside such definition.


The Initiative Petition is merely the first step toward making lethal medication available to all those with severe disabilities.

If loss of autonomy and loss of dignity are accepted as valid reasons for killing oneself, it will legitimate the prejudice that has long underlaid treatment of disabled people as second-class. The citizens of Massachusetts should utterly reject “the view that an acceptable answer to discrimination and prejudice is to assure the ‘right to die’ to those against whom the discrimination and prejudice exists.
Accordingly, people with disabilities have good reason to oppose this deeply flawed initiative petition.


Suicide Prevention & Response

A rapid increase in suicide in our time is cause for alarm among pastoral workers and, of course, family members and other survivors of this tragedy. The depths of depression can rob a person of his or her desire to live. Over 90% of all deaths by suicide are a result of depression, implying a person is not in their “right” mind and therefore not capable of making a rational and moral decision. With the knowledge now available about suicide, about what precipitates the act itself and also the act’s tragic effect on survivors, the church takes a much more compassionate stance on this issue than it has in the past. While God is the giver of life, and “we are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it,” there are occasions when a person resorts to this path as an only escape from deep psychological pain. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2280-2282). The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives. (no. 2283). Good pastoral practice demands that the family members and other survivors of suicide be treated with the utmost compassion and care. It is helpful to refer to this death as “death by suicide,” rather than saying a person “committed suicide,” which infers a deliberate choice to end one’s life. The decision is more likely a choice to end the pain and anguish that a victim of suicide is suffering. If a person survives the attempt, great care and love can be offered by family, friends, and professionals to assure the person he/she is loved and can find help in coping with the issues that cause such a depth of pain.   September – Suicide Prevention Month The following resources can assist you in increasing awareness and providing pastoral care. Helpful Pastoral Tools:     Section on suicide from the Catechism of the Catholic (see above) Loving Outreach to Survivors of Suicide (a program of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago) Mental Health Ministries (    Other Helpful Links: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has added a Crisis Chat function: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) Use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat Suicide Prevention Resource Center – Resources for Faith Communities Faith. Hope. Life. From the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention CDC Preventing Suicide American Foundation for Suicide Prevention  NIH Suicide Prevention SAMHSA Suicide Prevention Crisis Text Line (Available 24 hours every day) This is a relatively new service that communicates with people in crisis via text messaging.  The service has some very new software that helps counselors analyze the incoming text message, and prepare the best possible response. 24-Hour Crisis Hotline - The Samaritans A Valuable Resource Guide on Emergency Assistance, Warning Signs & Prevention of Suicide in College Students Suicide definitions  Suicide Response and Postvention Resources Tips for Supporting Grieving Youth Tips for Supporting Children/Teens After a Suicide Death  Suicide Prevention Resource Center on Postvention Quick reference guide includes what to look and listen for to know when and how to refer and respond Finally, a Catholic who has died by suicide is deserving of a Catholic funeral and burial in consecrated ground. Click to open Suicide with Word PDF   Using Social Media in Suicide Prevention By Dave Wither. Member, NCPD Council on Mental Illness Social media and smartphones have created a new cultural dynamic in the prevention and support of individuals who experience psychiatric emergencies (including suicide). This new dynamic of a world connected by technology provides us with new means to identify people who are suffering and in danger of hurting themselves. Those suffering, as well as crisis counselors, have new tools to help save lives.  We are blessed that the social media providers have recognized both the problem as well as the opportunity to provide help.  Facebook, Instagram and other sources are building ways to identify people suffering and in danger by what they reveal online. They can attempt to engage them with crisis support resources and/or care givers.  They are also providing means for families, friends and caregivers to alert the social media providers if they fear someone is in danger of hurting themselves.  Although technology and social media at times exposes the horror of the individual’s suffering, and possibly death, in ways never before witnessed, they also provide opportunities never before available.  Over time we must also learn how to incorporate these new tools and methodologies into our support structures.  The connectedness allows us and medical professionals to reach people in their darkest isolation and pain, even if they will never venture out of their isolation and into a doctor’s office. Based on how things have changed, we ask that all support groups examine and refresh their support information for individuals suffering (or in danger of) a psychiatric emergency.  One point we need to focus on is that young people (under 30) do not like to make phone calls; they prefer to chat and/or text.  To address this cultural change, new text and chat services have been added by crisis support organizations.  We suggest that you review the information below and update all of your support material and web pages accordingly.       (READ MORE)

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