THE Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has reaffirmed Roman Catholic teaching that euthanasia is an “intrinsically evil act”.
The letter Samaritanus Bonus: On the care of persons in the critical and terminal phases of life was published last week to clarify teaching on end-of-life issues.
It describes assisted dying and euthanasia as “homicide”, and says that the sacraments must be withheld from those who are planning to end their lives. Priests and others should also avoid any word or gesture that could be interpreted as approving the action, including staying with the person until the act of euthanasia is performed.
Hospitals that practise euthanasia or assisted dying cannot continue to be called “Catholic”, it says. Earlier this year, the Vatican forbade the company that manages the health-care facilities of the Brothers of Charity of Belgium from continuing to use the title “Catholic”, because it permitted euthanasia on its premises.
This is the first time that the issue of pastoral support for those requesting euthanasia has been raised in an official document. The document’s introduction notes that the issue of pastoral accompaniment of those who expressly request euthanasia or assisted suicide “today presents a singular moment when a reaffirmation of the teaching of the Church is necessary”.
The document also sets out that Roman Catholics are allowed to reject aggressive medical treatments at the end of life, if death is imminent and inevitable. It also covers treatment for children with terminal illnesses, and describes the use of prenatal diagnosis of illnesses and disabilities of children as “obsessive”.
It reads: “The sometimes obsessive recourse to prenatal diagnosis, along with the emergence of a culture unfriendly to disability, often prompts the choice of abortion, going so far as to portray it as a kind of ‘prevention’. Abortion consists in the deliberate killing of an innocent human life and as such it is never lawful. The use of prenatal diagnosis for selective purposes is contrary to the dignity of the person and gravely unlawful because it expresses a eugenic mentality.”