Jesuit Physician Says Assisted Suicide Fails to Attend to the Needs of the Dying

Jesuit Father Myles Sheehan As a Jesuit priest and a physician, Father Myles Sheehan brings a unique perspective to the debate about assisted suicide.

Fr. Sheehan recently spoke to Boston’s Catholic newspaper, The Pilot, about proposed legalized physician-assisted suicide in Massachusetts, which he considers a failure to meet the needs of the dying.

“I would like to see that people receive an approach that attends to their suffering in all its dimensions from the beginning of a serious illness,” Fr. Sheehan said.  He said those dimensions include attention to spiritual needs as well as mental and physical needs.

A medical educator trained in internal medicine and geriatrics and an expert in palliative care, Fr. Sheehan currently serves as the provincial of the New England Province of the Society of Jesus.

“This is a place where St. Ignatius said, ‘Love needs to be shown in deeds not words.’ The care and our whole way we approach people as they face the end of life is an issue that needs further attention. A distorted way to attend to it is what has come out of this assisted suicide [movement], but the underlying fears, concerns and discomfort about what the end of life might mean is real whether or not you agree or disagree,” Fr. Sheehan said.

Fr. Sheehan believes fear is a large contributor to attitudes that push people to choose to end their own lives, adding that the healthcare system can address these fears, provided caregivers make a sustained effort to maintain high standards of treatment in the system and in society.

“There is a bottom line that we have the fifth commandment ‘Though shalt not kill,’ and the killing of innocent life is considered intrinsically evil, that is, it is always wrong. And so to take the life, or to provide the means for a person to kill himself is considered an intrinsically evil act, because it violates first the life of the person. Second, it is a larger assault against what it means for human dignity,” Fr. Sheehan said.

Read the full story at The Pilot.

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