Virginia assisted suicide bill poses ‘deadly harm’ to ‘most vulnerable,’ bishops warn

Catholic bishops in Virginia are raising the alarm about proposed legislation in the commonwealth that would legalize assisted suicide. 

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington and Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond published a letter Monday urging Virginians to reach out to politicians and voice opposition to the state’s Senate Bill 280.

“We are alarmed and deeply saddened by this development. Human life is sacred and must never be abandoned or discarded. At this critical moment, we implore the faithful across our two dioceses: Please contact your state Senator and Delegate. Urge them to reject assisted suicide legislation, using the alert provided by the Virginia Catholic Conference.”

Senate Bill 280, known as the “Death with Dignity” bill, would allow “an adult diagnosed with a terminal condition to request an attending health care provider to prescribe a self-administered controlled substance for the purpose of ending the patient’s life in a humane and dignified manner.”

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Bishop Michael F. Burbidge

Bishop Michael Burbidge performs a midday Mass at the Cathedral of Saint Thomas More in Arlington, Virginia. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The bill would require patients wishing to end their lives to verbally request the killing procedure twice and submit a written request with their signature and that of a witness.

Senate Bill 280 has been moved to the Virginia state senate for a future vote.

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READ THE BISHOPS’ STATEMENT – APP USERS, CLICK HERE:

“Every suicide is a tragedy. Assisted suicide facilitates tragedies and makes the most vulnerable even more vulnerable,” the bishops wrote in the letter. “Legalizing it would place the lives of people with disabilities, people with mental illnesses, the elderly, and those unable to afford healthcare – among others – at heightened risk of deadly harm.”

Medically assisted suicide is currently legal in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

The Virginia Capitol building

The Virginia Capitol is seen in Richmond, Virginia, on March 4, 2010. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

It is currently legal in Maine, New Jersey, Hawaii, Colorado, New Mexico, California, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont.

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Barry Knestout

Bishop Barry Knestout opens a Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition and Hope at Gaston Hall on the campus of Georgetown University in Washington D.C. (Photo by Allison Shelley/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

“People facing the end of life are in great need, and must be accompanied with great care and attentiveness,” the bishops wrote. “To address each of their needs and alleviate their suffering, patients deserve high quality medical, palliative, and hospice care – not suicide drugs.”

The Catholic Church is opposed to any procedure that prematurely ends a human life — from abortion to assisted suicide — outside very narrow exceptions.

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