By Nancy Frazier O’Brien
Catholic News Service
Concern for human life and dignity from conception to natural death is a fundamental principle of Catholic teaching. But new challenges continue to crop up for those at the end of their lives, as backers of assisted suicide make inroads in various states through legislative action, voters’ choices or judicial fiat. Assisted suicide became legal this year in California and Canada. Those jurisdictions joined Oregon, Vermont, Montana and Washington state in allowing physicians to prescribe lethal drugs for patients who are believed to be close to death and have requested them. The Catholic Church has long been a staunch opponent of efforts to legalize assisted suicide, describing it as not just a religious issue but a matter of human rights.