This is an excerpt from Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell's column in the September 2012 issue of The Catholic Mirror, the Diocesan Magazine for the Diocese of Springfield, MA. He writes about the question on the November ballot here in Massachusetts regarding doctor-assisted suicide.
The ballot proposal is based on a utilitarian ethic - a judgment as to whether or not the individual can be considered useful by themselves or by others, whether they are still productive members of society. If they are not, the reasoning goes, they are disposable. And too many sick and elderly individuals are being made to feel that way. Even some who profess to be firmly religious can become infected with the utilitarian ethic that places less of a premium on some human lives, deeming them in some way "less worthy than others."
We have experienced the "less worthy than others" argument in the death of 50 million unborn babies. We have experienced the "less worthy than others" argument in the marginalization of the poor. We have experienced the "less worthy than others" argument in the isolation of the elderly . . . in the demonizing of people because of their religion . . . in the profiling of persons because of appearance . . . in those who seem different . . . in those who seem different . . . in the readiness to execute the condemn even when questions remain. We have experienced it in too many ways, in too many circumstances, among too many in our society. Are we now to experience it in physician-assisted suicide?
We need to remind ourselves and our society of each person's God-given inherent dignity. Acceptance of the inherent dignity of each human being, realization of the role of the Creator, and belief in the fundamental right to life have in too much of our society given way to a judgment that values the individual in relation to how useful he or she is to others. Too many in our society are saying: If you stop being useful, you're no longer of value. What a topsy-turvy world that makes.
Think rather on the incomparable dignity of every human being. Reflect on the gift of life, for it is a gift - a God-given one - from conception to natural death.