Oregon Catholics should not forget the creeping dangers and violations of physician-assisted suicide. Our first-in-the-nation 1994 law changed medicine, put pressure on the old and sick, and cheapened the value of life overall. Now activists want to expand its reach.

The truth is, suicide was never illegal; what the Oregon law really did was protect doctors who provide deadly overdoses to patients. Beside violating doctors’ ancient oath to “do no harm,” the law has made a small group of physicians into “vending machines” in the memorable phrase of Catholic doctor Dr. Bill Toffler. Statistics show that the average physician who dispenses a lethal prescription has known the patient only about three months. Such practitioners should instead do psychological evaluations, discovering why patients want to give up their last days on the planet. Dr. Toffler is right to say that compassion is sorely lacking in health workers who would help kill patients rather than enter into their fears and suffering with them.

Pain is low in the list of factors for those who ask to die. Top reasons included a feared loss of autonomy, despair at missing favored activities and the feeling of being a burden. Clearly, our law has made it seem the only good life is one lived by the vibrant and healthy. No wonder disability rights groups have fought assisted suicide for decades. And think of your aging parents and grandparents who, with this law on the books, surely must sense that young Oregonians would prefer they get out of the way. Vulnerable life is on the chopping block.

Even more so now. The Oregon Legislature last year nixed the 15-day waiting period for getting assisted- suicide drugs. Now someone can kill themselves on a whim. Even more frightening, the Oregon House passed a bill that would have allowed lethal injection. That dangerous proposal moved no further last year, but it will be back. In the Netherlands, Belgium and even Canada, patients can die by another’s hand, opening the door to all kinds of abuse. In all three of those countries, doctors have killed people who asked only because they were suffering from depression. What’s next?