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Bishop Malooly to lawmakers: Say no to physician-assisted suicide


The leader of more than 150,000 Catholics in the Diocese of Wilmington is urging voters to tell their legislators that government has no business making end-of-life decisions and that lawmakers should vote down a physician-assisted suicide proposal.

Bishop W. Francis Malooly, in a letter to members of the Delaware General Assembly, highlights nine chief concerns he believes should eliminate the bill from consideration, including the proposed legislation’s requirement of “physicians and others to make intentional misstatements on official records.” The bishop says a doctor signing a death certificate “must list the underlying terminal illness as the cause of death.”

“When a person willingly takes his or her own life, it is a suicide, and the means by which that death was brought about, rather than the underlying medical condition, constitute the cause of death,” Bishop Malooly wrote in the letter dated Jan. 16.

Bishop Malooly speaks during an April 22, 2015,  press conference at Legislative Hall in Dover where he joined interfaith leaders in the state to support the passage of SB40, a bill ending the death penalty in the state and replacing it with life without parole sentences. Next to the bishop is Rev. David K. Popham, associate conference minister, United Church of Christ Central Atlantic Conference.

Opponents of the legislation have helped quell similar efforts in the past, including a proposed law last summer.

House Bill 160, dubbed “End of Life Options Act,” has been sponsored by state Rep. Paul Baumbach.

“I am writing to express my profound concerns with, and opposition to, House Bill 160,” the bishop wrote. He said the church is joined in opposition to this bill by the Medical Society of Delaware, the Delaware Health Care Association, advocates for people with disabilities and leaders of other faith communities.

“The Catholic Church is opposed to physician-assisted suicide legislation because it seeks to legalize and normalize the intentional taking of human life,” Bishop Malooly said. “This deliberate activity violates the most basic tenets of our belief in the sanctity of life and simultaneously poses dangers to vulnerable populations.”

A measure similar to House Bill 160 failed to make it out of committee two years earlier, according to the Delaware State News newspaper, but the legislation had more support last summer. Several lawmakers said they had concerns about the legislation but agreed to vote it out of committee last year to continue discussion, the newspaper reported.

“A truly caring community devotes more attention and support to members at the most vulnerable times in their lives,” the bishop wrote.