WHO KILLED DEATH WITH DIGNITY?

 

Catholic Deacon Richard Port & Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo

 

I

n the dark of night on, May 1, 2002, the former Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai'i, Catholic Deacon Richard Port Killed Death With Dignity in Hawai'i.

Deacon Port accomplished this disgraceful deed by carrying the following letter from Hawaii's Roman Catholic Bishop Francis X.  DiLorenzo around to the Catholic Members of the State Legislature the night before the final Senate Vote -- causing three critical votes to change and the 2002 Death With Dignity legislation to fail.  The bill had already passed the full House.  Convinced by Port who used  the shameful excuse that Ňthe legislation would compromise the 2002 elections,Ó Port was accompanied and aided on his clandestine mission by the then Democratic Party Chair, Lorraine Akiba.

 

While everyone is free to practice their chosen religion, the question remains, "should a powerful member of the Democratic Party be free to conspire with the Catholic Church, or indeed any church, to thwart legislation supported by a Democratic Party Resolution and 75% of the registered voters in the state?" 

 

Scott Foster, Death With Dignity Hawai`i Communications Director and a former Democratic Party officer & State Central Committee Member said, "While State Democratic Party Chair, Richard Port could never seem to reconcile his religion with his politics and I believe this led to his early resignation.  The Roman Catholic Bishop and his church are of course rabidly against a woman's freedom of choice and call into question Richard PortŐs longtime involvement in the Democratic Party of Hawai`i. Port continues speaking as a Democrat with his reputation somehow intact.Ó

 

P.S. Richard PortŐs meddling in Democratic Party business continues. The above photo of Port was taken at the 2010 Democratic Party of Hawai`I State Convention only moments after he rose to speak against the 2010 Death With Dignity Resolution, later passed unanimously by the Convention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 1, 2002

 

Dear Senator:

 

            This week's sudden move toward Senate approval of a physician-assisted suicide measure is cause for grave concern on the part of all in our State of Hawaii. In my view it would be irresponsible to approve this bill under any circumstances, but doubly irresponsible to do so without the public testimony and extensive debate that such a monumental decision requires.

 

            No one should underestimate the weight of the moral issue the state Senate now faces. Not only Catholic moral teaching, but the founding principles of our nation, recognize the unalienable right to life as the first and most fundamental right bestowed on us by our Creator. We have always held that with regard to the value and dignity of human life, each person - and each citizen of our nation and our fine state - is the equal of any other. With one vote, our Senate could carve out a very disturbing exception to that principle, by declaring that one vulnerable class of our citizens can legally be "assisted" to their deaths by lethal drug overdose.

 

            We should not fall victim to the easy euphemism that by so doing, the legislature would only be granting these citizens their "freedom of choice." Presumably we would continue to respond to suicidal 'choices' made by all other citizens by seeking to prevent those suicides and address the real problems underlying such a despairing choice. No, our state government would be making its own policy decision that the lives of certain sick or disabled citizens are not as worth living, not as worth protecting, as the lives of all others. We would be making our own "choice" as a society that some people's suicides are objectively betteror more valid than others. And we would be making that dismissive policy decision, in advance, about an entire class of vulnerable patients who generally are not seeking aid in suicide or legislation like this.

 

            Would the Senate be acting to help the sick and elderly? No, because - as even the Hemlock Society has had to admit - older Americans and terminally ill patients tend to be more against legalizing physician-assisted suicide than almost anyone else. This legislation does nothing to meet th~ real needs of these patients for better pain control, assistance with daily tasks, and - most of all- respect for their own inherent worth.

 

            Would the Senate be acting to help doctors? But the state medical society opposes this le-gislation - believing, along with the American Medical Association, that such a new power to help take patients' lives is "a power that most health care professionals do not want and could not control."

 

 

            Would this legislation respond to the cries of patients with intractable pain? But as we already know from the Netherlands and Oregon, untreated pain is seldom the chief reason for physician-assisted suicide. In Oregon, disturbingly, the reason increasingly cited by patients is that they have come to feel they are a "burden" on others. Such feelings and attitudes will only be aggravated by the passage of legislation like this.

 

            Finally, is this about saving money? Some will be offended by this question. Yet the founder of the Hemlock Society, Derek Humphry, has written in his 1998 book Freedom to Die that assisted suicide will come to be accepted in our society chiefly as a matter of "cost containment." Humphry describes elderly patients as "greedy geezers" eating up the nation's health care dollars, who should be gently persuaded by others that assisted suicide can be "the morally correct thing to do" for family and society.

 

            By anyone's standards, this legislation raises too many disturbing questions to be approved now by the Senate. This issue involves life and death, equal protection under law, and the precarious dignity of some of our most vulnerable citizens. I urge you not to take action now that the Senate and the people of our State may bitterly regret in years to come. I urge you to set aside the assisted suicide bill.

 

With every best wish, I remain,

 

                                                            Sincerely yours in Our Lord,

                                                           

                                                            (Most Rev.) Francis X. DiLorenzo

                                                            Bishop of Honolulu