Virginia Catholics are praising the decision of a joint commission of the state legislature to take no action on a study on assisted suicide.
Last year, Del. Kaye Kory (D-Fairfax) asked the Virginia state legislature to consider legalizing so-called “medical aid-in-dying” or physician-assisted suicide.
After receiving public comment, the Joint Commission on Health Care, which was tasked with studying the issue, voted 10-6 on November 7 to take no action on the issue.
“I was very pleased to receive the news that the Virginia Joint Commission on Health Care rejected efforts that might ultimately have led to the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in our commonwealth,” Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington told the Arlington Catholic Herald.
“The commission received nearly 3,000 public comments against legalizing assisted suicide, and comments against assisted suicide outnumbered comments for assisted suicide 8-1! I thank the leadership of the Virginia Catholic Conference, the Arlington Diocese’s Office for Marriage, Family and Respect Life and so many citizens, especially among our Catholic faithful, for standing up for life!” he added.
In a statement posted to the Virginia Catholic Conference website, director of the conference Jeff Caruso said that voters’ voices had been “heard loud and clear” on the issue.
“In prayer and in public, your voices are urgently needed to bring Gospel values to bear on vital decisions being made by those who represent you,” he said.
Of the 3,000 comments against assisted suicide received by the commission, about 2,000 of them them were submitted through the Catholic Conference, Caruso told the Arlington Catholic Herald.
“The gift of life is something that should never be abandoned or discarded and that's the principal that was upheld by the joint commission,” he said.
Caruso said it was “very significant” that the commission declined to take action on assisted suicide, because it is something that could be helpful in the continued fight against legalizing it in the future.
The vote included all of the commission’s Republicans, as well as one vote from a Democrat on the commission. One of the commissioners who voted against assisted suicide was a surgeon, another was a physician.
Del. Scott Garrett (R-Lynchburg), who has experience as a surgeon, told the Virginia Mercury that he voted to take no action because he had witnessed people who had long-outlived their prognosis.
“The resiliency of the human condition is truly an amazing thing,” he said. “Each one of us has certainly, many, many times in our professional careers been faced with somebody who had no chance, they’re going to die in three months, and yet in fact it just wasn’t their time yet.”
The commission did pass several measures to improve health care in the state’s jails and prisons, including actions aimed at improving mental health and substance abuse.
Kory told the Virginia Mercury that she would not propose any assisted suicide legislation this year.
The seven states of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized assisted suicide.