Mistaken Antidote to Suffering, Says Academy for Life

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ROME, DEC. 12, 2000 (
Following the Netherlands´ recent step toward legal euthanasia, the Catholic Church has reiterated its dismay over what it considers a dangerous deviation from ethics and law.

A document published Monday by the Pontifical Academy for Life, entitled «Respect of the Dignity of the Dying,» explains that recent Dutch legislation is the consequence of a general «spiritual and moral weakening» in regard to the dignity of the sick and, more specifically, of a pro-euthanasia campaign carried out since the 1970s with the help of intellectuals and scientists.

The pontifical academy noted that Dutch courts for years had sanctioned the impunity of doctors who practiced euthanasia. But the recent decision by the lower house of Parliament goes much further, the academy says, and results in the «legalization of euthanasia on request,» although limited to «cases of grave and irreversible illness.» The Dutch law also would allow euthanasia for children as young as 12, with a parent´s consent.

This hypothesis is condemned outright by many documents of the ecclesial magisterium, as it is the «deliberate death of an innocent human person,» the pontifical document says.

The text noted that euthanasia supporters try to justify it by a paradoxical concept of individual liberty, and a perception of pain as insufferable and useless.

The academy refutes these points, emphasizing that «more than ever, pain is ´curable´ with adequate analgesic means and palliative care,» together with «adequate human and spiritual assistance.» Moreover, it says, so-called death petitions are always an expression of a need for greater attention and human concern.

The document indicates that pro-euthanasia arguments hide, in fact, «the inability of the healthy to accompany the dying in their exhaustion.» These arguments also show a rejection of the very idea of suffering, a characteristic of the leisure society, the document says.

«Questions of public spending, considered unsustainable, given the lengthiness of some sicknesses» are also a factor behind pro-euthanasia beliefs, the document adds.

The document also criticizes the «perverse complicity» of doctors who abdicate their professional identity, which always calls them to maintain life.

In place of euthanasia must be home care, religious consolation, and the support of family members and specialists, the document contends. It allows for a halt to treatments only in the extreme case of inevitable and imminent death, where they would only lead to precarious and painful delays of the inevitable.

The document concludes that there is a substantial difference between procuring and allowing death, because «the first position rejects life, while the second accepts its natural fulfillment.»

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