It is in Christ that true compassion for the dying is found — not in assisted suicide, said the Catholic bishops of New Mexico. Their comments came after the state’s Court of Appeals struck down a lower court’s ruling that assisted suicide is a constitutional right. “We conclude that aid in dying is not a fundamental liberty interest under the New Mexico Constitution,” Judge Timothy L. Garcia said in the 2-1 majority decision Aug. 11. The state’s Catholic bishops thanked God for the court’s decision. “Only God can give or take life and the state does not have the competency to shorten this precious gift, even for seemingly laudable purposes. While each stage of life is sacred, the end of life is filled with special meaning and opportunities,” the bishops said Aug. 13. “Christ showed what true compassion is when he died for us that we might live forever with him in heaven. The way to prepare for that ultimate reality is to live our lives as fully as possible until God calls us home.” They said that assisted suicide is not compassionate. Rather, it allows suffering to “blind us to the meaning of life.” In January 2014, a New Mexico court ruled that a 1963 law making assisted suicide a felony was invalid when applied to doctors who administered a lethal dose of drugs to medically competent, terminally ill patients, the Washington Times reports. The ruling came in response to a lawsuit on behalf of two doctors and a cancer patient in her 50s who were seeking to legalize requests for lethal treatment. The patient’s cancer is now in remission. The lawsuit had the support of the American Civil Liberties Union and Compassion & Choices, the organization once known as the Hemlock Society. In the latest ruling, Judge Linda M. Vanzi dissented. She said that the state’s interests in preserving life and preventing suicide are “insufficient” to justify what she characterized as “infringing the right to aid in dying.” New Mexico’s bishops reflected on Christian duties to the suffering and recounted the Church’s history of health care and service to the dying. They also encouraged people to take a Christian view of pain and suffering. “All too often, our society sees pain as the enemy while in fact suffering often accompanies genuine growth and new opportunities. The answer to suffering is not death but rather the grateful acceptance of life while at the same time managing pain through proper medications and the support of loved ones.” The process of dying is a “communal event” for loved ones to accompany a dying person in his or her final days. The bishops stressed the need for true compassion that “invites us all to journey with our loved ones as they prepare for eternal life, sharing and easing their suffering as we assure them that we are with them every step of the way.” Catherine Glenn Foster, litigation counsel for the legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, said that New Mexico law “clearly criminalizes deliberate assistance in someone else’s suicide.” “The court was right to reverse the lower court’s decision which invented a right to doctor-prescribed death that does not exist,” Foster said. “Families will now have the opportunity to honor and cherish their loved ones in their final days.” She said suffering patients need “understanding and sound medical treatment, not encouragement to kill themselves.”
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