By Danny McDonald Globe Staff,Updated January 22, 2024, 9:22 p.m.
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, the head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, condemned physician-assisted suicide at a conference concerning the value of human life over the weekend in Washington, D.C., according to a Catholic news service.
O’Malley forewarned that “the next major assaults” on the value of life over the next quarter–century “are going to come from those pushing physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia,” according to OSV News. An archdiocese spokesperson confirmed the report as accurate on Monday.
“A society that allows parents to kill their children will eventually allow children to kill their parents,” O’Malley told those gathered at the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life on Saturday. O’Connor, a former archbishop of New York who died in 2000, was an advocate who opposed abortion rights and the death penalty and supported social service programs.
O’Malley, 79, pointed in his remarks to changing policies in Canada, where in 2016 the criminal code was amended to allow for medical assistance in dying in some circumstances. Four years later, the law was again changed to expand access to medically-assisted suicide to “persons with disabilities, whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable,” according to human rights authorities.
“The situation in Canada is alarming,” O’Malley said. “There are proposals to promote euthanasia for the mentally ill. Once human life is no longer sacred, and the government can continuously move the goalposts, more and more people are in danger.”
In 2022, the Associated Press reported that many Canadians supported euthanasia, but human rights activists say the country’s regulations lack necessary safeguards, devalue the lives of disabled people and are prompting doctors and health workers to suggest the procedure to those who might not otherwise consider it.
End-of-life rights advocacy group Dying With Dignity Canada, meanwhile, says “too many Canadians are still unable to access their right to a peaceful death — leading to unwanted and unnecessary suffering.”
In Massachusetts, a doctor who provides life-ending medication to a patient can be prosecuted for manslaughter, the state’s highest court ruled in 2022. In that unanimous decision, the Supreme Judicial Court declared that the state constitution does not protect a right to what justices termed “physician-assisted suicide.” In 2012, Massachusetts voters narrowly rejected a “death with dignity” ballot measure.
In his remarks, O’Malley, whose archdiocese covers most of Eastern Massachusetts and is home to 1.8 million Catholics, also referenced abortion, reflecting the of views of a church that opposes what it calls “the moral evil of every procured abortion.”
“In the history of our country, people of faith have worked together to overcome racism and injustice,” O’Malley said on Saturday. “Now, we have to come together in defense of the human person, where the innocent unborn and the vulnerable elderly and all of those whose right to life is threatened.”