HOST INTRO: Earlier this winter, State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin introduced a bill to make New York the 6th state to legalize physician assisted death, or allowing patients to access to lethal medication. The bill, already contentious, has a major obstacle in its way – religious communities who see it as tampering with God’s will. Catholics, who have spearheaded the bill’s opposition, argue that access to lethal medication promotes suicide. Advocates of the bill say it will allow patients to hasten an otherwise painful death. Lindsey Kortyka has more.
KORTYKA 1: Susan Rahn is 46- she lives in Rochester.. She used to be a recruiter for a technology company – now, she works with the terminally ill. That’s because a few years ago she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer,.
RAHN 1: At that stage, once the cancer has gone into a vital organ, the bones, liver, lungs or brain, there is no cure.
KORTYKA 2: Rahn says she doesn’t want to die a painful drawn out death. — That patients like her should get more options at the end of their lives. That’s why she supports the new bill. But, there’s a problem: her church opposes it.
RAHN 2: I really don’t think that this is something that the Catholic church needs to take a hard stance on because there are so many other religious leaders that understand that it’s about compassion and treating other people as autonomous and letting them make their own decisions about their own bodies.
KORTYKA 3: At St. Catherine of Siena Priory on the upper east side, Catholics gather – to plan to fight the bill that Rahn supports. The crowd eats pastries off of paper plates, and drinks coffee out of styrofoam cups. MaryAnn Reno is a nurse from Long Island. She’s worked in hospice for years.
RENO 1: My heart breaks to think that this is even a thought. It’s murder!
KORTYKA 4: Reno says her husband had a brain tumor and died naturally. She says even though he suffered towards the end, it was a holy act. She believes patients should wait until God calls them, instead of choosing what she calls suicide. Many Catholics say they don’t want the sick to suffer. It’s OK to take someone off of life support. But, they are worried about unnecessarily speeding patient’s deaths. Ed Mechmann is a lawyer and the Director of Public Policy for the New York Catholic ArchDiocese.
MECHMANN 1:My son attempted to commit suicide a few years ago. So, I’m particularly sensitive to a culture that may affirm suicide as a good option. It is a terrible message to send that if at the end of life they are unable to do their normal functions that their life is no longer worth living.
KORTYKA 4: Mechmann recently filed a court brief against the bill on behalf of the New York State Catholic Conference.
KORTYKA 5: Amy Paulin,IS THE the bill’s sponsor. She says physician assisted death isn’t suicide — it’s no different from removing a person from life support. AND without that option, patients often refuse water and food, a slow and painful way to die.
PAULIN 1: I find it somewhat ironic that the choice of withdrawing life support, the choice of withdrawing food, the choice of withdrawing meds, the choice of withdrawing liquid, isn’t considered by the Catholic church identical to fast pacing someone’s death.
KORTYKA 4: And that’s what Susan Rahn, the advocate for the terminally ill, says she agrees with – despite Catholic teachings she was raised with.
RAHN 3: How I transition out of this earth isn’t going to affect anyone else other than myself and my immediate family. I have a 17 year old son I wish for him not to watch me go through that process.
KORTYKA 7: A vote in the spring will determine if that ultimately will be the case. Lindsey Kortyka, Columbia Radio News.