Legalization of Physician Assisted Suicide
Chris Faddis, President of Solidarity HealthShare, went on the BS Show with Bob Sansevere to discuss the evolving legal and cultural shift towards advocating for individuals’ so-called “right” to end their life with the assistance of their physicians for varying reasons. Nine states in the US so far have legalized physician assisted suicide, otherwise known as euthanasia or “medical aid in dying”. This legalization has prompted both physicians and health insurance companies to treat human persons as merely financial liabilities in the name of “compassion”, “mercy”, and “dignity”. Chris emphasizes a specific case in which a woman with a terminal illness was denied care by her insurance company because they didn’t believe that she had a high chance of recovery, so the expense was not worth it. They did, however, say that they would pay for her physician assisted suicide instead, as this was more cost-effective.
This begs the question: how did we get here, and what in our culture has prompted the medical industry to treat human life as expendable, despite its infamous vow to “do no harm”?
Check out Chris and Bob’s conversation below to hear more about the ethics of different types of end of life care.
Throwaway Culture and the Value of Suffering
Bob Sansevere (00:00):
We are joined by Christopher Faddis, Co-Founder and President of the nonprofit Healthcare Sharing Ministry Solidarity HealthShare, which is an ethical, affordable alternative to traditional health insurance and is faithful to the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. Today, we need to talk about a subject that has many people concerned. In recent years, several states have moved to legalize physician-assisted suicide, or euthanasia. So far, nine states have legalized assisted suicide. Physician assisted suicide is making suicide available to the patient who takes their own life. Euthanasia involves a lethal injection by a medical professional. The practice remains illegal in the US; however, Canada legalized euthanasia in 2016. Now, Chris, the US doesn’t allow it, but some states are, they’re trying to get this through. Why, I mean, why are they pushing for assisted suicide to basically, I mean, there’s so many elements that go into this, and we’ll talk a bit about what the – I mean, Solidarity is Catholic based, what your faith says about it. But what’s behind this? Why are so many states trying to get assisted suicide?
Chris Faddis (01:14):
Yeah, I mean, well, obviously the culture has changed, right? We have sort of a throwaway culture mindset here, and we tend to not really understand the benefit of suffering, which really, you know, it’s funny, people like to blame that on us Catholics, but really, it’s a principle that a lot of faiths and religions and traditions believe in – the stoics believed in suffering, right? I mean, you know, there’s a gift of going through something difficult and coming through on the other side and learning about yourself and all of that, let alone the spiritual side of that. But at the end of the day, you know, what we’re seeing here is that we have this, this level where we say, ‘well, why?’ You know, ‘what’s the point of mom being around if she’s just laying in a bed?’ You know, ‘what’s the point of so-and-so being here if they’re just in pain?’ And I have to say, you know, Bob, I have a personal experience of this ’cause my first wife died of cancer, and I was there in the room for five weeks at hospice and the pain… And she even asked the question, ‘what’s the purpose of me being here?’ And I remember, uh, family members repeatedly telling her, like how much just being with her and having those conversations were changing them. And I would say, ‘you know, Angela, you’re here because people need, they need to say goodbye to you. They need to ask for forgiveness. They need to do these things, but they’re also learning something about suffering from you.’ You know? And at the end of the day, I think what’s happening is we’re seeing a huge shift in people not finding purpose in this.
Violating the Americans with Disabilities Act
Chris Faddis (02:33):
I mean, you’ve already seen a shift how many people, you know, people don’t live with their kids anymore. When they get older, they move into nursing homes, right? We don’t take care of the sick. We don’t take care of the elderly parent. And so we’re just seeing a big shift in our society, and then this push that this is somehow merciful. And that it’s kind of a scary thing. And I think there’s some really interesting things to think about with the, with those, with disabilities. Are we actually doing something good for them? Or are we saying, ‘Hey,’ you know, ‘ultimately we won’t really want you around.’ And this whole op-ed that we, that I just read recently talked about the Americans with Disabilities Act and how these laws actually violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Bob Sansevere (03:15):
Well, and there are – like I said – there are so many elements that go into it and physician assisted suicide. Essentially, if someone is on a ventilator, a family can make that decision for them, right? If they’re on – if they are in a coma or they’re unable to speak for themselves. It’s just a, to me, it’s a dangerous ground. And I, I don’t know, I’m more of a believer in – because I remember Dr. Kevorkian was around, what, 20, 30 years ago, maybe more, assisting in suicide. And he was looked at as a ghoul by some people. But now that doesn’t seem to be the case. And I don’t know. I’m just not, I’m not comfortable with it.
Chris Faddis (03:53):
No, I mean, I think that’s, that’s the concern here. I mean, I think some of the laws will allow family members to make the decision for the patient if they’re incapacitated. And some, of course, would have to involve the patient. But yeah, I mean, it’s more than a slippery slope. I mean, this is something, you know, if you go to your mother and say to her, ‘mom, would you like us to take your life so you don’t have to do all this? It’s a lot of burden’, da, da, da. You know, the reality is that the person who’s sick, the person who’s ill, and maybe dying or going through some difficult thing, they already feel like a burden. Right? And so you, you then put this in front of them, and often I think what’s happening is people feel like they need to do this for the sake of their family. It’s not really what they want. But it’s interesting because the big obstacle with the American Disabilities Act, you know, is it’s assisted suicide, essentially violates the legislation of the American With Disabilities Act.
The Cost of a Life
Chris Faddis (4:45):
But it also is putting this position of saying, ‘Hey,’ you know, ‘this person has been essentially incapacitated for years, and now I can just choose’, like, ‘Hey, this is expensive. It’s costing us money. We have to go visit ’em all the time. I can choose to just let ’em go’. You know, there’s really no good in that. There’s no mercy in that. But we try to make it out to be that. So you mentioned Kevorkian and the change here. You know, we’ve started to change the terminology, right? It was “Death with Dignity”, and now it’s “Compassion and Choices” is the organization that was the Hemlock Society that you remember from back in the seventies and eighties, right? Which was teaching people how to kill themselves with the helium balloon, the Hemlock Society is now called Compassionate Choices.
Bob Sansevere (05:33):
That same group!
Chris Faddis (05:33):
Compassionate Choices sounds a lot nicer.
Bob Sansevere (05:34):
Chris Faddis (05:34):
It sounds a lot nicer –
Bob Sansevere (05:36):
Oh my God, yeah.
Chris Faddis (05:37):
– than Jack Kevorkian and, and you know, the assisted suicide, right? So they’ve changed the terminology. They’ve made it about mercy. They’ve made it about these things. And I think most Americans weren’t prepared to think this through. So they’re kind of going, ‘yeah, whatever. If someone doesn’t wanna be here, it’s not my job’. And yet, if somebody tries to kill themselves, we pull out everything we can. We practically bring out the National Guard to keep them from jumping off of a bridge, right? So there’s a real shift here that we need to start speaking out, and we need to start thinking, ‘uh, is this really what we want? Do we wanna legalize the killing of innocent people who are just ill? Or do we wanna take care of them with, with true compassion and mercy?’
Bob Sansevere (06:15):
You know, I’ve had this conversation over the years with friends and my – now maybe it would change if I’m in that position – but my feeling is I want every, I want it to the last breath on my own thinking, being optimistic. Maybe they’ll have a cure in the next day, you know, or the next few weeks or months that there is something that could turn it around. So I mean, I’m not a fan, obviously. I’m not a fan of physician assisted suicide. And the other thing is at the Catholic Church, I mean, there’s a belief that if you commit suicide, you don’t get to go to heaven. Is that changed? I mean, that’s still the same thing, right?
Chris Faddis (06:49):
Right. It has – there’s certainly the option. There’s certainly, you know, it’s softened in a sense of how it’s taught that, you know, the Lord can choose to accept you and you have culpability and all these things, but at the end of the day, it’s still considered a sin. It’s still considered against human dignity. Right? And I think this idea that patients are better off dead is not okay. Here’s the other thing to think about, Bob, what these laws allow – and I remember when the law passed for assistance or whatever they called it – but physician assisted suicide in California, they called it something else. I don’t remember. But a few years ago, I remember seeing that a woman, right after the law was enacted, a woman got a letter from her insurance company saying, ‘we’re denying your pre-authorization for chemotherapy, because we don’t believe you have a good shot at living past six months’. Oh my gosh. You’ll however, pay for the physician assisted suicide. And I thought, ‘why isn’t anyone talking about this? This is insane, horrible’. Now, insurance companies are driving people to their death to kill themselves because they say, ‘well, it’s not really worth it. You’re not gonna give us more than six months, so we’re gonna let you go’. It’s really a scary slope we’re on here.
Taking the Heat
Bob Sansevere (08:01):
No, and I had not heard that. It’s reprehensible. And whoever sent that letter should have been fired. They might have been applauded within the business or within the health insurance company, but that is a horrible, horrible thing. I mean, this is something that obviously with nine states and ongoing other places, well, you’ve seen in so many other ways how these states are making moves. And I’m not gonna say which, but I’m guessing most of these states have one thing in common. It’s one party driving it. I won’t say which party, but I’m guessing that one party is driving it. So we’ll let people figure that one out for themselves. Meantime, I gotta ask you quickly, how long has the stretch been where you’ve had a hundred plus degrees? Cause you live in Phoenix and it’s, I mean, it’s been, you’ve as high as what, 120?
Chris Faddis (08:53):
Well, I don’t think we’ve actually hit 120 yet. They were saying it would, but it hasn’t yet. They’re saying it’s gonna happen next week. You know, what I will say is for those of us who are true Phoenicians, I was alive when we hit the record 122 back in whatever year that was. I don’t remember now, but I was a young kid and I was all about town. I was at the park, I was at my friend’s house. I was at the local public pool. My mom didn’t see me for nine hours that day. So we used to just think of this as normal, and now we have heat advisories and all these things. So yeah, it’s been about a hundred and, uh, you know, in the 105 to 112 range for the last week and a half. But that’s normal for us. We always have you know, hundred degree days. Now, we had a really mild spring and first part of summer, I mean, we normally would’ve hit a hundred degrees sometime in March, and we didn’t hit a hundred degrees until May. You know, we didn’t even get above a hundred ’till late June. So, you know, it’s give or take, and it is truly dry, as they say. But the monsoons will be coming in over the next couple weeks, the monsoon rainstorm. So it’ll cool down. It’ll make things a little more humid, but it’ll cool it down.
Bob Sansevere (10:01):
All right. Well, lucky you. Well, Chris, thank you. Chris Faddis, the President and Co-Founder of Solidarity HealthShare – solidarityhealthshare.org. Check it out. Great alternative to traditional healthcare. And I know this, you won’t tell people to just get assisted suicide and forget chemo. That won’t happen with Solidarity *laugh*. All right. We’ll take a quick break. The BS show. Be right back.
If You Need Help
If you or someone you love is struggling and considering physician assisted suicide, please know that there is hope. You deserve true compassion, and there are resources to help you in your struggle. Please reach out to your local church or parish for support, and contact your local diocese for ethical medical and palliative care resources near you.
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