To Live Each Day with Dignity
U.S. Bishops’ Policy Statement on Assisted Suicide
To live in a manner worthy of our human dignity, and to spend our final days on this earth in peace and comfort, surrounded by loved ones—that is the hope of each of us. In particular, Christian hope sees these final days as a time to prepare for our eternal destiny.

The US Bishops on June 16, 2011 approved “To Live Each Day with Dignity: A Statement on Assisted Suicide”.Please check back frequently for updates!

Church Teaching

Fact Sheets



Bishops to Vote on Physician-Assisted Suicide Document at Seattle Meeting; Statement Says Practice Does Not Advance Compassion, Choices

WASHINGTON (June 1, 2011)—The U.S. bishops will debate and vote on a document on physician-assisted suicide at their Spring General Assembly, June 15-17, in Seattle. The document, To Live Each Day with Dignity, will be the first statement on assisted suicide by the full body of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

“After years of relative inaction following legalization of physician-assisted suicide in Oregon in 1994, the assisted suicide movement has shown a strong resurgence in activity,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities. “This renewed effort has led to the passage of an Oregon-style law in Washington by popular referendum in November 2008, a state supreme court decision essentially declaring that assisted suicide is not against public policy in Montana, and concerted efforts to pass legislation in several New England and Western states. The Church needs to respond in a timely and visible way to this renewed challenge, which will surely be pursued in a number of states in the years to come.”

The draft statement speaks of the hardships and fears of patients facing terminal illness and the importance of life-affirming palliative care. It cites the Church’s concern for those who are tempted to commit suicide, its opposition to physician-assisted suicide, and the consistency of this stance with the principle of equal and inherent human rights and the ethical principles of the medical profession.

Countering two claims of the assisted suicide movement, that its agenda affirms patients’ “choices” and expresses “compassion” for their suffering, the statement says physician-assisted suicide does not promote compassion because its focus is not on eliminating suffering, but on eliminating the patient. True compassion, it states, dedicates itself to meeting patients’ needs and presupposes a commitment to their equal worth. The statement says that “compassion” that is not rooted in such respect inevitably finds more and more people whose suffering is considered serious enough for assisted death, such as those with chronic illness and disabilities.

According to the statement, the practice also undermines patients’ freedom by putting pressure on them, once society has officially declared the suicides of certain people to be good and acceptable while working to prevent the suicides of others. Undermining the value of some people’s lives will undermine respect for their freedom as well, the statement says, citing legal systems such as the Netherlands, where voluntary assisted suicide has led to involuntary euthanasia.

The statement argues that assisted suicide is not an addition to palliative care, but a poor substitute that can ultimately become an excuse for denying better medical care to seriously ill people, including those who never considered suicide an option. It concludes by advancing what Pope John Paul II called “the way of love and true mercy,” and calls on Catholics to work with others to uphold the right of each person to live with dignity.

Coverage of the bishops’ meeting in Seattle is open to credentialed media. Sessions open to the media will be Wednesday, June 15, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time and Thursday, June 16, until 10:30 a.m. Pacific time. There will be media conferences after all open sessions. Reporters seeking to cover the meeting can download a credential application form at and submit it by June 3, by fax to (202) 541-3173, or mail to:

June Meeting Credentials
Office of Media Relations
3211 4th St. NE
Washington, DC 20017-1194

Keywords: physician-assisted suicide, USCCB, U.S. bishops, statement, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, document, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, To Live Each Day with Dignity: A Statement on Physician-Assisted Suicide, compassion, choices, palliative care, chronic illness, disabilities, euthanasia, medical care, ethics

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USCCB: HHS Mandate for Contraceptive and Abortifacient Drugs Violates Conscience Rights (August 1, 2011)

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) sharply criticized a new HHS “preventive services” mandate requiring private health plans to cover female surgical sterilization and all drugs and devices approved by the FDA as contraceptives, including drugs which can attack a developing unborn child before and after implantation in the mother’s womb.

“Although this new rule gives the agency the discretion to authorize a ‘religious’ exemption, it is so narrow as to exclude most Catholic social service agencies and healthcare providers,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

“For example, under the new rule our institutions would be free to act in accord with Catholic teaching on life and procreation only if they were to stop hiring and serving non-Catholics,” Cardinal DiNardo continued.  “Could the federal government possibly intend to pressure Catholic institutions to cease providing health care, education and charitable services to the general public?  Health care reform should expand access to basic health care for all, not undermine that goal.”

“The Administration’s failure to create a meaningful conscience exemption to the preventive services mandate underscores the need for Congress to approve the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act,” the Cardinal said.   That bill (H.R. 1179), introduced by Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Dan Boren (D-OK), would prevent mandates under the new health reform law from undermining rights of conscience.

Cardinal DiNardo added: “Catholics are not alone in conscientiously objecting to this mandate.  The drugs that Americans would be forced to subsidize under the new rule include Ella, which was approved by the FDA as an ‘emergency contraceptive’ but can act like the abortion drug RU-486.  It can abort an established pregnancy weeks after conception.  The pro-life majority of Americans – Catholics and others – would be outraged to learn that their premiums must be used for this purpose.”

“HHS says the intent of its ‘preventive services’ mandate is to help ‘stop health problems before they start,’ said Cardinal DiNardo. “But pregnancy is not a disease, and children are not a ‘health problem’ – they are the next generation of Americans.”

“It’s now more vital than ever that Congress pass the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act to close the gaps in conscience protection in the new health care reform act, so employers and employees alike will have the freedom to choose health plans in accordance with their deeply held moral and religious beliefs.”

In a July 22 letter supporting the bill, Cardinal DiNardo wrote: “Those who sponsor, purchase and issue health plans should not be forced to violate their deeply held moral and religious convictions in order to take part in the health care system or provide for the needs of their families or their employees.  To force such an unacceptable choice would be as much a threat to universal access to health care as it is to freedom of conscience.”

The full text of Cardinal DiNardo’s letter is available online at Cardinal DiNardo also addressed the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations on preventive services for women in a July 19

Keywords: Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Committee on Pro-Life Activities, rights of conscience, conscience protection, private health insurance plans, religious exemption, Institute of Medicine, birth control, contraceptives, mandate, abortion, Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179), Church amendment, IOM, Ella, sterilization, RU-486

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The USCCB and Health Care Reform (June 2000)
For decades, the Catholic bishops of the United States have been calling for genuine life-affirming reform to the nation‟s health care system. Their efforts are rooted in John XXIII‟s encyclical Pacem in Terris, which listed medical care among those basic human rights flowing from the basic dignity of the human person. The bishops‟ pastoral letter of 1981 and statement on health care in 1993, as well as their advocacy for the State Children‟s Health Insurance Program and participation in events like “Cover the Uninsured Week” illustrate to the bishops‟ longstanding commitment to authentic health care reform.
After the 2008 national elections, as the nation turned its focus to comprehensive health care reform, the bishops recommitted themselves to pursuing life affirming health care for all, especially the poor and most vulnerable. The USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development established four criteria for fair and just health care reform: a truly universal health policy with respect for human life and dignity; access for all with a special concern for poor and inclusion of legal immigrants; pursuing the common good and preserving pluralism including freedom of conscience and variety of options; and restraining costs and applying them equitably across the spectrum of payers.
As the national debate continued, the bishops identified the first three criteria as the moral principles essential to health care reform, a reform that the bishops have repeatedly identified as “a moral imperative and urgent national priority.” The bishops demonstrated their commitment to genuine reform by working with lawmakers throughout the legislative process and through their consistent message that health care reform must include the three moral criteria listed above. Much collaboration took place between departments within the USCCB, evidenced by many statements and letters signed by the chairmen of the three committees most directly involved in health care reform: the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and the Committee on Migration.
Despite the bishops‟ consistent advocacy, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law did not incorporate the three moral criteria the bishops had identified. However, though the bishops ultimately opposed the new law, they recognized the good present in the bill and look forward to advocating future legislation that incorporates the three moral criteria necessary for authentic life-giving health care reform. In the weeks since the passage of the bill, the bishops have sought to better clarify their position by responding to mischaracterizations of their arguments and publishing articles explaining the reasons for their opposition to the law. Moving forward, the bishops will continue to call upon Congress and the President to build on this major step toward universal health care reform by working to improve access to and the affordability of health care, inclusion of the immigrants, and the protection of all life and conscience. The timeline that follows offers a summary of the bishops‟ role in the health care debate.
June 2010