By Simon Caldwell, Catholic News Service

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) — Nations that legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide develop higher rates of “self-initiated” suicides than those that do not, according to a new research document by a Catholic bioethics institute.

The Oxford-based Anscombe Bioethics Centre, which serves the Catholic Church in Great Britain and Ireland, also found that women were more likely to commit suicide in jurisdictions that have permitted euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The bioethics institute based its conclusions on evidence from studies in Europe and North America that showed physician-assisted deaths were accompanied by associated increases in the rates of self-inflicted suicides.

David Jones, director of the bioethics institute, said the findings revealed that “if we encourage assisted suicide, then we will encourage suicide.”

“If we legalize what is euphemistically called ‘assisted dying,’ then more people will kill themselves, and not only people with chronic or terminal illnesses,” he said Nov. 9.

“The evidence is out there, the threat is real,” he said.

“Belgium, which legalized euthanasia in 2002, currently has the highest suicide rate in Western Europe,” he said. “In the Netherlands, which has more euthanasia than any country in the world, suicide is also rising.

“In America, suicide is rising more in states that have legalized physician-assisted suicide than it is in states that have resisted calls to change the law,” he added.

The study, “Suicide Prevention: Does Legalizing Assisted Suicide Make Things Better or Worse?,” was published Nov. 8 on the Anscombe website.

It found that legalization of euthanasia or assisted suicide is invariably followed by the so-called “slippery slope” of significant and incremental increases in the numbers of people seeking to die by lethal injection or by ingesting a lethal cocktail.

It also found an unexpected pattern of high and rising “self-initiated deaths” — including disproportionately and often significantly high rate of suicides among women in particular.

No study examined by Anscombe revealed a reduction in non-assisted suicides in any states that have legalized euthanasia or assisted suicide.

This is a screenshot of the cover of a new paper released by the Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Oxford, England, that shows the introduction of assisted suicide is invariably followed by increases in all kinds of suicide, particularly among women. (CNS screenshot/Anscombe Bioethics Centre in Oxford)

In a statement on the Anscombe website, Jones said: “I am really concerned that the legalization of euthanasia or assisted suicide can have a negative impact on a people who are struggling to find their lives valuable and meaningful.

“There have been four peer review studies on EAS (euthanasia and assisted suicide) and suicide rates in 2022, and they all point in the same direction,” he continued. “I would advise anyone to look at the evidence for themselves. It is very troubling.”

Among the most recent of the papers considered by Anscombe is a 2022 study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

It was limited to data from the United States, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands and found “quite strong evidence that total suicides increase following implementation of assisted suicide laws and somewhat weaker evidence that part of the overall increase is driven by a net rise in unassisted suicides.”

The Anscombe paper also refers to a 35-page study published in early 2022 in The Journal of Ethics in Mental Health. The study revealed that no European country that has legalized doctor-assisted death has seen a subsequent reduction in its rates of violent suicides.

On the contrary, “Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide and Suicide Rates in Europe” found that the introduction of euthanasia and assisted suicide “is followed by considerable increases in suicide (inclusive of assisted suicide) and in intentional self-initiated death,” with women most “placed at risk of avoidable premature death.”

The paper compared self-inflicted suicide rates in European nations that permit euthanasia and assisted suicide and found them to be higher than those of neighboring countries that did not permit such practices.

In 2015, Jones demonstrated that the introduction of assisted suicide into several U.S. states was also associated with a significant increase in all types of suicides there.

In Europe, a growing number of countries now permit assisted dying in either the form of euthanasia, which is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain — or by assisted suicide, which is legal in such countries as Switzerland.

Euthanasia has been legalized in much of the Anglophone world over the last decade and is now practiced widely in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, with the U.K. and Ireland under pressure from to change their laws to permit the practice or to allow assisted suicide.

The Anscombe study did not include Canada, Australia or New Zealand.