German Episcopate Urges European Union to Bar Euthanasia

Calls for Palliative Treatments Instead

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BERLIN, JAN. 30, 2004 ( Anticipating a debate by the Council of Europe on a report in favor of euthanasia, the German bishops’ conference appealed to European Union members to prohibit this medical practice.

In a statement issued Jan. 20, the Catholic bishops referred to the Marty Report on Euthanasia, which, if legally implemented, would exempt doctors practicing euthanasia from prison sentences.

The Council of Europe’s plenary assembly was supposed to vote on the Marty Report today. But last Monday its members decided to eliminate the debate from the agenda. Had it been approved, the proposal would have gone to the European Parliament.

Aware of the risks, the German bishops requested EU members to «reject any form of active euthanasia and thus protect the dignity of every person and his vital right to life.»

The German episcopate said that any approval of euthanasia would be inconsistent with Recommendation 1418 of the European council’s parliamentary assembly, approved on June 25, 1999. That recommendation encourages «the member States of the European Council to respect and safeguard under every aspect the dignity of the terminally ill or the dying.»

Recommendation 1418 also calls for a guarantee of access to palliative treatments for terminal patients, and emphasizes that euthanasia is against Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 2 states that «death cannot be inflicted intentionally on anyone.»

The impunity being sought «is a step back as regards the declaration then expressed on the inviolable dignity of every human being,» the German bishops observed.

Persons without hope of a cure «will thus become victims of murder made possible by the law,» the episcopal statement warned.

The bishops warned that the introduction of a law «exerts pressure on every dying person, as euthanasia becomes an option that is presented to them, moreover, from outside.»

«The desire to die often arises, in the first place, from despair,» they wrote. «Many times this state does not last long, if the patient is surrounded by affection, as well as adequate medication and psychosocial assistance.»

The International Federation of Associations of Catholic Doctors, which represents 30,000 physicians, also opposed the Marty Report, describing it as «devastating» and «incongruent» with previous European Council votes.

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