Euthanasia Is "Murder on Demand," Swiss Bishops Warn

Publish Document on Support to Terminal Patients

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EINSIEDELN, Switzerland, JUNE 7, 2002 ( The Catholic bishops of Switzerland published a document on support to terminally ill patients, in which they condemn direct active euthanasia as «murder on demand.»

The Swiss episcopal conference published the lengthy document Thursday, at the end of an ordinary assembly. It is a response to proposals in the country for the legalization of euthanasia, following the example of the Netherlands and Belgium.

The bishops begin by clarifying misunderstandings. They explain that ethics enlightened by the Gospel is not opposed to «passive euthanasia,» the omission or interruption of medical treatment to avoid therapeutic cruelty.

«For the Church, the interruption of disproportionate medical procedures in relation to expected results, may be legitimate,» so long as the intention is not to cause death, the document explains.

Christian ethics also accepts «active indirect euthanasia,» which offers painkillers to alleviate suffering even if the latter imply the risk of shortening the patient´s life, so long as death is not intended but «only tolerated as something inevitable.»

However, the Church can never regard «direct active euthanasia» as licit, because this is veritable «murder on demand,» the bishops stress.

«In no case is it a gesture of compassion,» the bishops explain. «It is contrary to the commandment that prohibits killing the innocent, and the duty to protect human life.»

Above all, a terminal patient must not «die in loneliness.» This calls for «a commitment on the part of the medical personnel, volunteers and relatives,» the bishops add.

Hence, the Swiss episcopate appeals for «stronger commitment in the hospital environment in the offer of palliative care.»

During the assembly in Einsiedeln, the bishops also studied the problem of pedophilia and sexual abuses. A task force was set up in March to advise the bishops, and the episcopate is preparing a document on the matter.

Lastly, the assembly analyzed last Sunday´s referendum, in which voters approved a wider legalization of abortion. The episcopate reaffirmed the Church´s commitment to «increasingly support the family.»

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