The Iowa Catholic Conference opposes efforts to legalize assisted suicide and/or euthanasia.

Each and every person is created in the image and likeness of God. The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society and fundamental to Catholic social teaching.

The Catholic Church believes that consciously choosing to end one’s life is wrong, and assisting with someone’s suicide cannot be condoned. It is the destruction of life.

Efforts to legalize assisted suicide can gain ground because many people are understandably concerned about what they may face as they near the end of their earthly life. People don’t want to suffer and are concerned that they’ll be painfully hooked up to life-support machines indefinitely. Many wrongly believe that the Church says that life-support systems can never be removed.

In fact, our teaching distinguishes between killing — which is an intentional action or omission to bring about the death of another, and considered unacceptable – and allowing to die, which is withdrawing treatment that is no longer helping a patient and may actually be harming them. Medical and hospice care is such today that much pain and suffering can be relieved in acceptable ways.

We also should consider what physician-assisted suicide would mean to the medical profession. Trying to distinguish “treatment” decisions from “killing” decisions would be difficult at times. It would bring a new dimension to the healing profession – that of killing. Empowering physicians to kill those who are suffering is not a good way to end suffering.

On a practical level, the legalization of assisted suicide would inevitably mean pressure being put on people to insist on being put to death if they become a perceived burden. What kind of demands will be put on patients who will be perceived as a financial drain on the health care system?

While many in our society want to retain a perceived total autonomy over their own life and death, as Catholics we believe we are ultimately responsible to God for the stewardship of our life. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us all a welcome message of hope.