Fordham Won’t Pull the Plug on Pro-Euthanasia Efforts

“Intentional euthanasia, whatever its forms or motives, is murder. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator.” (CCC 2324)

Keating Hall at Fordham University
Keating Hall at Fordham University (photo: Doug Olson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Panoramio and Wikimedia Commons)

Why is a supposedly Catholic university pushing assisted suicide? That's what some are asking Fordham University in New York. Last week I joined a group opposed to assisted suicide outside the school.  Assisted suicide/euthanasia has become a very hot debate in New York State (the so called “Medical Aid in Dying Act”) yet few really understand what legalization would actually mean.

According to its web site, Fordham has hosted at least four workshops—for student credit—in collaboration with the pro-euthanasia group End of Life Choices New York (EOLCNY) in just the past year:

1. Being Mortal Documentary and Discussion (September 6, 2016) by EOLCNY and Fordham University, School of Social Work 

2. How to Die in Oregon: Screening and discussion of NY Medical Aid in Dying Act (October 18, 2016)
by Department of Sociology and Anthropology/Compassion & Choices—Laurie Leonard, LMSW, Executive Director, EOLCNY

3. Choice in Dying: Current Legal, Policy and Ethical Issues (February 25, 2017) Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service

4. Palliative Art: Using the Arts to Improve Care at the End of Life (June 7, 2017) by EOLCNY Fordham University, School of Social Work

EOLCNY is backing the Medical Aid in Dying Act currently being pushed in New York. The law allows terminally ill patients to request medication from a doctor to kill themselves. EOLCNY is a previous affiliate of Compassion & Choices (formerly the Hemlock Society). EOLCNY became independent of Compassion & Choices that same year courtesy of a $300,000 grant from the billionaire globalist George Soros’s Open Society Foundations.

The group's mission states clearly, “We advocate to legalize medical aid in dying in New York through litigation or by legislation. EOLCNY has initiated a lawsuit which is currently making its way through the system. We seek a ruling to clarify that a mentally competent, terminally ill patient has the right to obtain medicine by prescription that he or she could ingest to achieve a peaceful death.”

David Leven, executive director emeritus and senior consultant for EOCNY, and “a regular guest lecturer” for Fordham Graduate School of Social Service, gave the Fordham presentation in February.  He's said publicly that neither the Catholic Church for any other religious group has a say in end-of-life issues, dismissing the voice of the disabilities rights community as well.

It's disturbing that a Catholic university hasn't offered a single presentation or workshop on the Catholic perspective on assisted suicide. In fact, the NY Against Assisted Suicide has offered to present, with no response. Calls to the university for comment were not returned.

Outside the university, we had dozens of interactions with students, faculty, and administrators of Fordham. Most had no idea how one-sided the euthanasia issue is being presented to students. We encountered many people on the street who say they support the legalization of “assisted suicide”—but have no idea what is actually in the Bill says and what the real-life ramifications are. Some were truly shocked to learn the facts. 

I didn't either until I was clued in. It's not as simple an issue as assisted suicide advocates would have us believe.

Did you know the family of the person seeking to end his life does not have to be notified? One pro-euthanasia person I spoke to found that very surprising. She said she “strongly” supports assisted suicide laws so that “people can check out when they want to.” Actually, she didn't believe me that the family wouldn't be notified. But it's true. The pending New York law does not require the immediate family who very well might want to discuss such a drastic—fatal—decision with the person be informed.

Did you know that doctors cannot opt out of participating in an intentional death—“assisted suicide”? Legalization requires them to either provide the lethal dose or refer to a doctor who will do so. What about their freedom of conscience? And what about a physician who knows he can cure the patient but is denied the opportunity to use his medical skills and curative treatment (along with the patient who is similarly denied such treatment)? One student I spoke to who is from Oregon described what a disaster legalization has been for his state.

Did you know the law doesn't allow for protecting a patient from any financial pressures from someone else that they end their life now? A Fordham law student I spoke with said, “That's insane.” Someone who's getting an inheritance might be urging assisted suicide, and if the pressured person is disabled, has a mental health issue, or is on medication, they could be especially vulnerable to such pressure.

Did you know that the death certificate for a person who dies by assisted suicide/euthanasia reads 'terminal illness' rather than assisted suicide? This only helps someone with murderous intentions, someone who could benefit from the person's death, as there would be no legal way to prosecute. One woman on her lunch break had no idea legalization would actually protect a potential murderer from 'getting away with murder.'  This woman stood and chatted with us for a while, signed our petition against legalization, and helped us hand out brochures with the facts—all on her way to noon Mass. 

Did you know that most disability groups oppose legalizing assisted suicide/euthanasia, understanding that it discriminates against the disabled in encouraging them to end their lives? They resent being viewed only as a financial burden and not as individual people with innate dignity. A young guy passing our group in his electric wheelchair stopped to read our signs and our brochure and made this crucial point to us.

Assisted suicide poses a threat to those with disabilities or who are in vulnerable circumstances. When assisted suicide becomes an option, pressure can be placed on these individuals to take that option. Research shows that most people who say they want to die by assisted suicide would not want to if they had sufficient love and support around them. Prescription requests from terminally ill individuals for suicide drugs are often based on fear and depression. Most cases of depression among terminally ill people can be successfully treated. Yet primary care physicians are generally not experts in diagnosing depression. Nothing in the Oregon or Washington assisted suicide laws compel doctors to refer patients for evaluation by a psychologist or psychiatrist to screen for depression or mental illness.

If assisted suicide is made legal, it quickly becomes just another form of treatment and as such, will always be the cheapest option. In an already cost-conscious healthcare environment, this is a serious concern. Oregonian Barbara Wagner was denied coverage of her cancer treatment but received a letter from the Oregon Health Plan that stated the plan would cover assisted suicide. Another Oregon resident, Randy Stroup, received an identical letter, telling him that the Oregon Health Plan would cover the cost of his assisted suicide, but would not pay for medical treatment for his prostate cancer.      

One would think that even a secular university would offer at least one opposing view to four presentations all with the same agenda.

There are hundreds of groups that are sincerely opposed to assisted suicide legalization, including the group I protested with, NY Against Assisted Suicide, doctors and nurses groups, pro-life groups and disability groups, including the poignantly named, Not Dead Yet. Other groups that have been suggested to Fordham to present the authentic Catholic view include the Human Life Alliance and Catholic Hospice.