Additional Reporting: New Jersey’s New Bill May Indicate Changing Views Toward ‘Death With Dignity’

Early today, my feature on the anti-choice and religious right influence on the Death with Dignity debate was published on RH Reality CheckFrom the article:

“Nearly two weeks after Brittany Maynard used Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act to end her life at the age of 29, the New Jersey General Assembly passed a similar aid in dying bill that gives terminally ill patients the right to help in precipitating their death. The bill’s success was likely indicative of the way Maynard’s advocacy has shaped the conversation around aid in dying laws, particularly in response to the antagonistic rhetoric espoused by the anti-choice and religious right contingents.”

While the article focuses primarily on how the Catholic Church is the main funding source for the opposition to Death with Dignity laws, there is another layer to its influence that was left out of the piece: use of advertisements. Here is some additional reporting:

Oftentimes, Peg Sandeen of the Death with Dignity National Center points out, Catholic Church leaders will leverage their anti-Death with Dignity allies among the medical community in order to shore up opposition. Again  in Massachusetts, the Committee Against Physician Assisted Suicide, which ran this opposition ad featuring a person claiming to be a pharmacist, was one of the most vocal opponents to the 2012 ballot measure. According to the state’s campaign and political finance office, Catholic-affiliated institutions primarily funded that group: Boston Catholic Television Center, Inc., St. John’s Seminary Corporation and the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston were among its largest donors.

“The Church has learned if it says publicly, ‘We oppose Death with Dignity and you should too,’ that voters don’t necessarily support that. That’s just one thing and they can decide how the Church’s opposition impacts their vote,” Sandeen told RH Reality Check. Through these obfuscating campaigns, “the public’s misled to what the true opposition is.”

By using physicians in anti-Death with Dignity ads, she explained, the opposition is attempting to medically legitimize—and shroud—a contention informed primarily by religious belief. This allows them to potentially sway members of the public who are not religious, belong to a different religion or no religion at all, or who criticize the Church. 

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