Legislation at statehouse that would allow for assisted suicide rampant with dangers

Your action needed – pray novena, call lawmakers and tell them to vote ‘no’

Legislation at the Illinois statehouse that would allow for assisted suicide is being discussed and debated among lawmakers. Senate Bill 3499 would allow for those over 18 years old to kill themselves via life-ending drugs if they are terminally ill. Assisted suicide is full of problems and dangers from a practical and medical standpoint and a moral standpoint. This is why 40 states in the U.S. have refused to adopt the practice so far.  

The American Medical Association argues that “physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”

To begin considering a better way forward than assisted suicide, we look to Pope Francis who said, “We must accompany people towards death, but not provoke death or facilitate assisted suicide. I would point out that the right to care and treatment for all must always be prioritized, so that the weakest, particularly the elderly and the sick, are never discarded.”

Practical and medical reasons why assisted suicide is dangerous

1. There is no requirement that a doctor or any medical personnel be present with the person in case something goes wrong upon consumption of the drug. There have been cases where the person who takes the drug does not die quickly, instead endures agony for hours or even days.

2. There are no safeguards that can prevent the lethal drugs from being consumed by someone else because the drug can be sent via the mail and no medical person is there to administer the lethal drug.

3. Assisted suicide incentivizes denying treatment by health insurance companies. Insurance companies have turned down coverage for cancer treatment but offered to pay for suicide drugs instead. Furthermore, the disabled community already faces demoralization and oppression in seeking adequate medical care. Assisted suicide encourages this kind of prejudice.

4. Assisted suicide targets those with mental health challenges. The proposal pending in Illinois does not require a psychiatric evaluation for depression. Many people requesting assisted suicide are depressed. The lifetime risk of suicide among patients with untreated depressive disorder is nearly 20 percent  and 76 percent of communities in Illinois do not have enough mental health providers to serve residents, according to federal guidelines. Thinking about suicide can be a common part of depression, rather than a rational choice.

5. Assisted suicide sends a message to people that they are a burden to their family. In Oregon, where assisted suicide has been legal for years, data shows people request suicide drugs not for pain but because they cannot do the same activities that they could before. They feel they’ve lost dignity or that they are a burden. Assisted suicide can also promote the view that elderly relatives are not persons to be loved but burdens to be managed.

6. The American Medical Association (AMA), American Psychiatric Association, and dozens of other medical groups oppose assisted suicide. The AMA says, “Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.” Physicians are entrusted with saving lives, not ending them, and assisted suicide violates the Hippocratic Oath.

7. Illinois has excellent, modern palliative care programs to alleviate suffering. No one’s pain should be unmanageable in our state. Hospice care is paid for by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance. Patients deserve the best in pain management and quality care, not suicide drugs.


No one wants to suffer or experience a loved one suffering. Fortunately, Church teaching makes clear that there are moral alternatives to such. “Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable. Palliative care is a special form of disinterred charity. As such it should be encouraged” (CCC 2279).

What does the Catholic Church say on assisted suicide?

Father Peter Harman, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua in Effingham and who holds a doctorate in Moral Theology from the Catholic University of America, answers questions about the morality of assisted suicide

The Church has consistently taught that our life is a gift of God, and its dignity is to be respected from the moment of conception to natural death. In each person’s life, the mystery of health and sickness, joy and suffering co-exist. While the practice of medicine which seeks to heal and alleviate suffering is a great vocation and work of mercy, the alleviation of suffering may never be confused with the elimination of the suffering person. Truly wholistic care for a patient and loved ones should include the emotional and spiritual care to adequately address their pain and to accompany them through the last chapter of life, through death and into eternal life.

Why does the Church care?

The Church has accompanied believers in Christ through many eras and cultures. She offers more to care for the sick and needy than any other institution. She is a witness to those aspects of culture which respect the value of life and those which cheapen it. Actions which intentionally shorten life, even in the midst of suffering, cheapen human dignity and lead to a culture where some life is treated as having more value than others. When euthanasia (assisted suicide) is accepted and practiced, it casts a shadow over the lives of those who endure handicaps, are elderly, or infirmed. When public policy endorses the intentional ending of life when its end is near, it creates the expectation that life should not include suffering. This false idea can easily lead to the reduction or withholding of care for those who depend upon financial aid and whose lives no longer seem “useful” from an economic standpoint. There is evidence that economic considerations have played a role in the decision-making process that governs euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Does this mean that I am left to suffer endlessly?

Not at all. No one is obliged to take on treatments which will only extend life but do not offer hope of recovery, i.e., it is not necessary to live as long as one possibly can by whatever means necessary. There is a great moral difference between acknowledging the reality of approaching death and intending to hasten it. One may refuse treatments which are deemed to be “disproportionate” in that they do not offer plausible hope for recovery or are more burdensome than beneficial to the patient. One may receive medications to deal with pain, even if they have a harmful effect or may hasten death, so long as this is not the intention of the patient nor the caregivers.

Isn’t euthanasia/assisted suicide presented as being compassionate?

Though some advocate allowing for assisted suicide as a more compassionate approach to the struggle of facing death, the word “compassionate” is literally translated as — “to suffer with.” Euthanasia/assisted suicide is the exact opposite of “suffering with.” It is the removal of the suffering person from our midst. Often, a terminally ill patient faces the great suffering of being alone or the guilt of feeling burdensome to loved ones. This person’s dignity as a child of God and fellow member of the human family should be affirmed, and we should be willing to truly be compassionate, willing to suffer with, and support one another in these most difficult moments. Very often, when a suffering person’s pain can be managed and when their spiritual and emotional struggles are acknowledged, their fear of death and desire to hasten their death subsides.

What can I do to ensure I am cared for according to my intentions?

Having a designated family member or proxy for making decisions of a medical nature should you be indisposed is a helpful way to assure that you receive the treatments and care you need, but also that your life need not be unnecessarily extended. Catholic hospitals and institutions adhere to the “Ethical and Religious Directives” authored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. These clarify that ordinary means of care and treatment are expected (such as nutrition and hydration as long as they can be accepted) but means which are unduly burdensome or futile need not be taken on, and that under no circumstances is your death to be intentionally hastened. Go to usccb.org/resources/ethical-and-religious-directives-catholic-healthcare-services and provide this resource to your proxy or include it with your living will so it can help clarify your in intentions.

Two things you can do right now. Pray and call state lawmakers

Pray this novena asking St. Pope John Paul II for his intercession to stop assisted suicide in Illinois

This novena —or nine days of intercessory prayer — can be prayed starting anytime this spring, to urge the defeat of assisted suicide legislation in Illinois. We pray for a commitment by our elected officials to prioritize palliative care and support for those at risk from assisted suicide: those with disabilities, those who are nearing the end of life, or those who are struggling with a mental illness. We ask St. Pope John Paul II to intercede for us as he is one who showed us the value of human life through his own health struggles and faith.

Start each day of your novena with this prayer:

Merciful God, we pray with thanks and gratitude for the great spiritual gift of St. Pope John Paul II’s apostolic life and mission. Through his heavenly intercession, we ask for the defeat of assisted suicide legislation and that the infinite worth of each human person is upheld through proper investment in palliative care. Grant also that we may grow in love for You and proclaim boldly the love of Jesus Christ to all people, through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Read the day’s quote/reflection and then pray

Day 1

All life has “inestimable value” — “even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in His own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.”

– Pope Francis, July 2013

Pray an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be

Day 2

“A society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice, and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized. Only respect for life can be the foundation and guarantee of the most precious and essential goods of society, such as democracy and peace.”

– Evangelium Vitae, 101

Pray an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be

Day 3

“A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members; and among the most vulnerable are surely the unborn and the dying.”

– St. Pope John Paul II, May 2000

Pray an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be

Day 4

“Respecting the dignity of people who are dying must involve respecting their lives, for without life there is no dignity.”

Cherishing Life, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, 2004

Pray an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be

Day 5

“Laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion or assisted suicide are in complete opposition to the inviolable right to life proper to every individual. They thus deny the equality of everyone before the law.”

Evangelium Vitae, 72

Pray an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be

Day 6

“As believers, how can we fail to see that abortion and assisted suicide are a terrible rejection of God’s gift of life and love? And as believers, how can we fail to feel the duty to surround the sick and those in distress with the warmth of our affection and the support that will help them always to embrace life?”

– St. Pope John Paul II, 1999

Pray an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be

Day 7

“Fragility, pain, and illness are a difficult trial for everyone. They are an appeal for patience, for suffering with; we cannot give into temptation to apply quick and drastic solutions, stirred by false compassion or by simple criteria of efficiency and economic saving. True compassion marginalizes no one much less considers their death as a good thing.”

– Pope Francis, June 2016

Pray an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be

Day 8

“We deserve to grow old in a society that views our cares and needs with a compassion grounded in respect, offering genuine support in our final days. The choices we make together now will decide whether this is the kind of caring society we will leave to future generations.”

To Live Each Day with Dignity, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011

Pray an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be

Day 9

“Never tire of firmly speaking out in defense of life from its conception and do not be deterred from the commitment to defend the dignity of every human person with courageous determination. Christ is with you. Be not afraid!”

– St. Pope John Paul II, 2001

Pray an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be

Conclude with this prayer each day

Prayer for Help

Lord Jesus Christ, you chose to share our human nature and redeem all people. We ask your help for our brothers and sisters who are ill. Support them with your power and shelter them from sadness. Keep them firm in faith and serene in hope. Help also those who assist the sick and care for them in their time of illness. Inspire our society to resist the temptation of assisted suicide for the elderly, the sick, the vulnerable, and all your people. May life’s beauty and sanctity be respected among all our brothers and sisters. All this we ask in your holy name. Amen.


Contact state lawmakers in Illinois and tell them to vote “no” to assisted suicide (Senate Bill 3499), what proponents falsely call “dying with dignity” or “medical aid in dying.”

Go to ilcatholic.org to find your lawmakers and others throughout the state and their contact information.