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October 3, 1997     The Message
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October 3, 1997

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10 The Message n for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana October 3, 19i Dutch doctor criticizes Oregon approach to assisted suicide By ED LANGLOIS Catholic News Service PORTLAND, Ore. (CNS) -- Laws permitting physi- cian-assisted suicide and euthanasia would be "ridicu- lous" in a country like the United States, says a founder of tlqe euthanasia movement in the Netherlands. Dr. Pieter Admiraal, a strong backer of aid-in-dying, told the American Medical News in a recent interview that the United States is ill-suited to the practice. The Dutch anesthesiologist, who has presided at more than 100 euthanasia deaths, said that before assist- ed suicide and euthanasia are made legal, good end- of-life care should be available to all Americans. "I have always said that.., starting with euthanasia in a country with about 30 million uninsured people is, in my opinion, ridiculous," Admiraal said. However, he did add that he thought Oregon, because it provides complete health coverage, might be the place for Americans to begin experimenting with aid-in-dying. The Dutch doctor criticized backers of Oregon's con- troversial 1994 law legalizing assisted suicide, saying the euthanasia movement should not proceed without the support of the medical community. Leadership of the Oregon Medical Association, though neutral on the subject of assisted suicide, voted overwhelmingly in April to reject Oregon's version. Since it was passed in 1994 as Measure 16, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act has been stalled because of court appeals filed by the National Right to Life Com- mittee and backed by many Catholic organizations. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide soon whether it will consider the case. Oregon legislators, convinced by Dutch studies that suicide pills might lead to lingering deaths, in June decided to send the aid-in-dying law back to the public for a second look. The vote-by-mail ballots were to go out to households in mid to late October. The balloting takes place Nov. 4. A yes vote on Measure 51 would repeal the suicide law. A recent poll shows that two of three Oregon voters want to keep the law in place. But foes of assisted sui- cide say they made up a similar gap in 1994 and are more energetic now in getting their point of view across. Conrad points out that the same poll showed that only half of the respondents would call Measure 16 a good law. In the American Medical News interview, Admiraal predicted that if assisted suicide by lethal pills were made legal in the Unit- ed States, lethal injection would soon be a widespread practice, just as it is now in the Netherlands. He chided American physicians for draw- ing a line between prescribing pills and giving injec- tions, calling the distinction "silly" and "so American- style." Though the American Medical Association flatly rejects assisted suicide as a "fundamentally unaccept- able corruption of the patient-physician relationship," doctors tend to be more supportive of the idea if patients were to die by oral medication instead of by injection. Voters in Washington and California, frightened by the image of doctors wielding needles, turned down euthanasia initiatives in 1991 and 1992 respectively. In both states, 54 percent of the electorate opposed the sui- cide propositions. Oregon's law, passed by 32,000 votes or 2 percent, excludes death by injection. Crafted after the results in Washington and California, the Oregon proposal opts instead for methods such as poison pills. In the interview, Admiraal said doctors who assist in suicide never get used to it ..... S ) " "You never get used to killing, ( mebody, he sa. "We are not trained to kill. With euthanasia, your ni mare comes true." The American Medical News interview more of Admiraal's criticism of the Oregon law did a letter publicized earlier by Oregon Right to The group had released the letter to counter have always said that.., startin with euthanasia in a country with about 30 million uninsured people in my opinion, ridiculous los cited by suicide foes where lethal doses of did not work and the patients involved had to be by plastic bags being put over their heads to them. "After an oral dose of 9 gram barbiturate times the lethal dose -- every patient will die," Admiraal in the letter, which he addressed to right-to-die activists: "During that time the in a deep coma without awareness and without suffering." In June, the U.S. Supreme Court nixed the idea constitutional right to assisted suicide, but left the authority to decide if the practice should be 1 In their unanimous opinions, the justices accepl "slippery slope" arguments regarding the protection! vulnerable patients and the upholding of dards prohibiting assisted suicide. The hi lighted the potential peril faced by patients tern ily depressed because of a terminal illness. Catholic faith helps Illinois couple withstand death, can By MARY BRESLIN Catholic News Service BENSENVILLE, Ill. (CNS) m By all outward appearances, Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan, his wife, Marie, their children, grandchildren and a giant dog named Peyton look like a made-for-TV family. But such families are fantasy and the Ryan home rings with reality. It's a place of peace with conflict, faith with uncer- tainty and grieving anchored by hope. Last January, the Ryans lost their youngest child, 12-year-old Annie, from a brain tumor, and they now face the continuing challenge of Jim Ryan's can- cer, a non-Hodgkins large-cell lym- phoma. "It's an aggressive cell, but often times treatable," Ryan told the New Catholic Explorer, newspaper of the Joliet Dio- cese, during a recent interview at his home. "The bad news is, if not con- trolled, it will take your life." A former amateur boxer and prose- curing attorney, Ryan said he can talk candidly about his condition because of the courage, faith and simple honesty of two cancer victims, his father, Edward, who died more than a decade ago, and Chicago Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin, who died last November. "My dadled a very faith-centered life. He went to Mass daily, and we said the family rosary every night," Ryan recalled. "He... credited the church and (Alcoholics Anonymous) with giving him the combined strength to overcome his alcoholism." Ryan first met Ca Bernardin about 10 years ago at a meeting of Chicago-area pt0rs on the p,obtem of child pornography. The next time was just after Ryan's cancer diagnosis. "The cardinal called me at home to offer his prayers. He said, 'When you are diagnosed, your whole life changes in a heartbeat.' He promised to stay in touch," Ryan said. A few weeks later, after Cardinal Bernardin knew his own cancer had returned and would be fatal, he invited the Ryans to his residence for Mass. "We met with him in the parlor first and talked about life and life after death," said Ryan. The cardinal revealed then that many terminally ill Catholics had expressed their fears and doubts to him, and that he, too, had suffered doubts but ulti- mately his faith overcame them, accord- ing to Ryan. The attorney general said the cardi- nays openness with the public about his cancer "so impressed me that I have tried to be the same with mine." Ryan's attitude is positive and he said his doctors are optimistic. "Marie, my family and my faith have sustained me so far," he added. "My work preoccupies me. I love what I do and am passionate about it, but you never forget you have cancer." As a father of six and grandfather of two, Ryan said he always has the welfare of the next generation in mind. He is most proud of his office's adv6cacy on behalf of children and families, includ- compassion from colleagues, friends and fellow parishioners at St. Charles Bor- romeo in Bensenville since their daugh- ter's death, the Ryans said her loss seems insurmountable some days. "The only thing that keeps me putting one foot in front of another is believing that Annie is where she is supposed to be," Marie Ryan told the Explorer. She has a support group, and stays connected with young children by work- ing at an after-school program and teach- ing part-time in a pre-school. She also takes comfort in the thought that the Blessed Mother  who lost her only son ";will 'mother' Annie for us until we can be together again." On "down days," the Ryans rely on the prayers of thousands of people have written to comfort them. "If believed in the power of said Marie Ryan, "I believe in it Her husband added, "Your faith! comforting and it's challenged. yourself a lot of questions: If there loving God, why did he take a kid 12 years old? Is he listening, or prayers empty words in the tually you say to yourself, there is and this is part of the human Ryan also said he hasn't blamed or wondered 'why me?' regardin illness. "This is an imperfect he noted. "And as the cardinal 'Even an imperfect life is a life living." ing programs for battered women and World moves to abused children. "The most challenging criminal justice halt land mine killing issue facing our state right now is juve- WASHINGTON (CNS)  As nile violence, particularly gangs," he said. Thougl grateful for the outpouring of the world doved closer to a comprehensive ban on anti-personnel land mines by international treaty, pressure increased SAN DIEGO (CNS) -- Bishop Robert H. Brom of San Diego told Italian-Amer- ican Catholics gathered in his city in early September that they should extend their charity to "the ends of the earth." The federation is a major supporter of research and treatment of Cooley's ane- mia, a form of sickle cell anemia which afflicts mainly people of Latin origin from the Mediterranean region. Italian-American group supports medical research for the United States to join that A spokesman for the U.S. urged President Clinton to end his sition to the treaty, and a Vatican said the exceptions sought b) States would have hurt the treaty. Among the estimated 26,000 killed or injured by land mines each most are civilians. Activist highlights famine in North Korea EDMONTON (CNSI to save lives. Jay Won, a South Canadian from Markham, walks east to west across Canada awareness of the famine currently astating North Korea. 'Tin a Christian, and I want something before it's too late," said l Health a concern around the