Richard Doerflinger, M.A.Associate Scholar
Richard M. Doerflinger is a Fellow with the University of Notre Dame’s de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture and an Adjunct Fellow in Bioethics and Public Policy at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. He was formerly Associate Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, where he worked for 36 years. Among his duties was the preparation of policy statements and congressional testimony on abortion, euthanasia, conscience rights in health care, embryo research, and other medical-moral issues for the bishops’ conference. He also serves on the Advisory Board to The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity, and is a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
Mr. Doerflinger has testified before Congress, the National Bioethics Advisory Commission, the National Institutes of Health, the President’s Council on Bioethics, and several state legislatures on the way public policy treats human life at its most vulnerable stages. His writings on medical ethics and public policy include contributions to The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, The Hastings Center Report, Duquesne Law Review, Cell Proliferation, the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, the Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine (Our Sunday Visitor Press 1997), the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, Human Life Review, The Public Discourse, and the American Journal of Bioethics. His monthly column “A More Human Society” is syndicated by Catholic News Service and published in many Catholic newspapers. He holds a BA degree and an MA in Divinity from the University of Chicago and conducted doctoral studies in Theology at that institution and the Catholic University of America.
In January 2009, Mr. Doerflinger became one of the first recipients of the Gerard Health Foundation’s “Life Prize,” honoring efforts to awaken the conscience of America to the sanctity of human life. In April 2011, he became the first recipient of the “Evangelium Vitae Medal,” awarded annually by the University of Notre Dame’s de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture “to honor individuals whose outstanding efforts have served to proclaim the Gospel of Life by steadfastly affirming and defending the sanctity of human life from its earliest stages.”
On March 8, 2023, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced the latest version of the pro-abortion “Women’s Health Protection Act” (S. 701).
On February 27, the Washington state senate decided to subject many more of its residents to the risk of being hastened toward death by drug overdose.
Beginning with Oregon in 1997, ten states and the District of Columbia have legalized physician-assisted suicide (PAS) for patients said to have a terminal illness.
The Administration policy is unsupported by the language and history of EMTALA itself, and explicitly forbidden by other equally authoritative federal laws.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey has led abortion supporters to propose sweeping legislation, and to mislead Americans about pro-life legislation. One example is a claim, repeated by many news outlets, that state laws against abortion forbid effective treatment of women undergoing miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies. That claim has been rebutted again and again, but continues to appear in online news outlets.
The “Women’s Health Protection Act” (WHPA) has been circulating in Congress since 2013. That is the year Planned Parenthood announced it was moving away from the slogan “pro-choice.”
Opponents of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) have long warned that there is a “slippery slope” from initially limited acceptance of the practice to a broader “right” to take the lives of the sick and elderly. PAS supporters have generally dismissed this claim as alarmist. In my home state of Washington, however, supporters are now embracing the claim, and urging lawmakers to ski down the slope.
Former vice-president Joseph Biden has made it clear that on becoming President, he hopes to advance his party’s stand on so-called “social issues” such as abortion and the LGBTQ agenda. His ability to do so will depend on whether he will be working with a Congress that shares his goals.
In August, the Trump administration’s new Human Fetal Tissue Research Ethics Advisory Board reviewed requests made to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for federally funded fetal tissue research. The Board recommended denying most of these requests.
The founding intentions of the PAS movement, the grim practical realities of suicide by oral overdose, the legal principles at stake, and the state of public opinion all argue that the move from PAS to euthanasia, once the former is more widely accepted, would be not only a “slippery slope” but a virtual free fall.