Conference to Focus on Euthanasia and Aggressive Therapy

Vatican Organizes an International Congress

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 10, 2004 ( Cases of euthanasia and aggressive therapy occur daily and are multiplying, and “require a valid response on the part of the Catholic Church,” says a Vatican official.

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, made that assessment when explaining why his dicastery has organized its 19th international congress on palliative care.

The three-day congress, which starts Thursday, will include the sanitary, juridical, cultural, and interreligious dimension of palliative care, as well as its treatment in the media.

Specialists from Asia, America and Europe have been invited to discuss these topics, “and we have qualified collaboration from Africa,” the cardinal noted Tuesday at a press conference.

More than 650 participants from 74 countries have already registered for the meeting, which will include 17 ambassadors and officials from various countries accredited to the Holy See.

Cardinal Lozano Barragán explained that the initiative stems from the Church’s understanding of suffering, which is related to the suffering Christ, and from its conviction that the last stage of life must be surrounded by medical professionalism and fraternal support, Vatican Radio reported.

The cardinal stressed that the last stage must not be manipulated, especially in the case of unconscious patients, by aggressive or unacceptable decisions, such as recourse to euthanasia, or disproportionate care in regard to the patient’s situation, such as aggressive therapy.

“Aggressive therapy means the futile prolongation of life: to prolong painfully an agony without there being any means to restore life,” the cardinal clarified.

Palliative care “tries to restore life,” but “also succeeds in having the patient be in the most adequate mental, social and spiritual state to be able to live better the last moment of life, which is the most important,” he continued.

The conference will cover three key stages: the situation of palliative care in today’s world, the enlightenment of this care with the Gospel and interreligious dialogue, and the practice to be followed.

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