Blog Post

Hawaii Bishop Speaks Truth to Power

                                            Hawaii State Capitol, Honolulu

Bishop Larry Silva of the Diocese of Honolulu wrote a hard-hitting editorial about the new law legalizing assisted suicide in his state and raises serious questions about how it requires people to lie on death certificates and to insurance companies, how it disregards the eternal consequences of this choice and the guilt it imposes on families, and how it sends a dangerous message to youth that sometimes killing yourself is better than living.

The new legislation, HB-2739, known as the “Our Care, Our Choice Act,” was signed into law last week after passing by a vote of 23-3 in the Senate and 39-12 in the state’s House of Representatives.

It’s a bill that touts autonomy, the bishop says, which is a word meaning “self” and “law.

“ . . . I find it ironic that the act of taking one’s life, which people have been doing quite autonomously for thousands of years, is now only to be sanctioned if one has the permission of one’s ‘health’ care provider, the State legislature and the governor,” Bishop Silva writes.

“My wonder at this apparent contradiction is compounded when I think of how, until now, we have prided ourselves on helping people not take their own lives. We have suicide prevention programs and hotlines, and have always considered suicide a tragedy that wreaks havoc on so many survivors who feel grief and frustration that they were not able to prevent this ‘autonomous’ decision from being made.”

To those who claim the law isn’t suicide, the bishop points out that this is only because “suicide” will not be listed on the death certificate. Instead, the law dictates that “the death certificate shall list the terminal disease as the immediate cause of death.”

“In other words, it will lie about the real immediate cause of death, which is freely and deliberately ingesting a poison into one’s system,” Bishop Silva continues. “If we call it another name besides suicide, then it may become respectable. Under no circumstances should we call it what it is, since certain insurance benefits may not be available to one’s estate if one commits suicide. So let’s also lie to the insurance company by calling it ‘death with dignity’ or some other title that will make it sound more respectable.”

As a spiritual leader, he also feels compelled to ask the question as to whether this person, with “documentable” soundness of mind and will, who violates the fifth commandment of “thou shalt not kill,” is flirting with a fate worse than a debilitating terminal illness.

“That person may be very surprised to arrive in the next life only to be met with unimaginable pain and isolation, from which there is no pill that will EVER allow escape. God does allow us the autonomy to make such decisions, but he warns us of the dire consequences – and relentlessly attempts to turn us away from such self-destructive decisions,” he states.

Even though the State Legislature doesn’t base its decision on eternal consequences, it should still think beyond the individual terminally ill person, he continues.

“What of family members who will have to live with the weight of their own consciences regarding this very unnatural process? What of those who are suffering depression, which can be even more dark and painful than physical pain, including our beloved young people? Won’t this suggest to them that if life becomes too burdensome, checking oneself out of it sooner than later is a legitimate option?”

Equally compelling is the question of whether or not opening the door to enabling people to choose death might lead insurance companies and health care providers to opt out of providing expensive treatments for the much cheaper option of simply eliminating the patient.

And who will be forced into obeying this law? “Will medical personnel or pharmacists be forced to provide a lethal drug against their consciences because the patient has lawfully insisted upon having it?” he asks.

The bottom line is that this “autonomous” new law could easily become a cancer that inflicts us all.

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