The Holy Year of Mercy announced by Pope Francis, which begins Dec. 8, comes at a time when the meaning of “mercy” in America is being twisted to mean something profoundly to the contrary. Specifically, there are some who are working hard to apply the concept of mercy to a growing movement to make assisted suicide legal.

For decades, the concept of physician-prescribed suicide was something Americans associated with the likes of Jack Kevorkian, known colloquially as “Dr. Death.” But it’s recently been made over by the heartbreaking story of Brittany Maynard, a beautiful 29-year-old euthanasia activist who took her own life rather than live with terminal brain cancer. In the weeks leading up to her suicide, her face smiled at us from glossy magazine covers in grocery store checkout lanes.

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