04/18/2007, 00.00
RUSSIA

Orthodox Church and scientists against euthanasia

Russia’s Federation Council is to vet a draft bill legalising euthanasia in ‘exceptional cases.’ “Doctors, lawyers and representatives of public organisations” will decide requests by terminal patients. “Absolutely amoral from the Christian viewpoint to help one commit a suicide,” says Moscow Patriarchate representative. Religious groups should be involved in the debate.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Russia’s Federation Council (upper house) is debating whether to allow euthanasia in some cases, the Kommersant daily reported on Tuesday. The Russian Orthodox Church, Duma members and scholars immediately voiced their strong opposition.

The initiative comes from Valentina Petrenko, chairwoman of the Federation Council Social Policy Committee, who favours euthanasia “in the most exceptional cases.”

Should euthanasia become legal, terminal patients would be required to inform their physician in writing who in turn would have the request notarised. A panel of doctors would then have two months to examine it and determine whether improvement or treatment is possible before accepting it. Finally, if “the medical certificate is approved, the patient's request will be considered by a council to be set up under an executive body, such as a regional administration. It shall be made up of medics, Prosecutor's Office officials, lawyers, and representatives of public organisations', Ms Petrenko said.

The proposal does not however specify under what conditions a patient can exercise the right to euthanasia. All Chairwoman Petrenko had to say was that euthanasia “should be a way out for special patients who have no chance to recover, who are tormented by a disease or suffer from a very severe injury and who themselves ask to be relieved  of their agony.”

It “is absolutely amoral from the Christian viewpoint to help one commit a suicide,” said Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, vice-chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s External Church Relations Department.

He said he hoped that the debate over ‘voluntary death’ continues, involving as much as possible religious and civil society groups. “Doctors, lawyers and generally professional communities alone cannot decide the fate of this law,” he said.

He is not alone. Mikhail Davydov, president of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, agrees. The Russian Health and Social Policy Ministry is critical of the proposal. Human rights groups have voiced doubts about the draft citing the country’s rampant corruption which might distort the process. Instead of reflecting a patient’s final wish euthanasia might be a choice imposed by a self-serving relative.

Pavel Krasheninnikov, chairman of the Duma Legislation Committee, also slammed the idea of legalising euthanasia in Russia.

“Just as in case of mistakes made in [. . .] death sentences, [. . .] we should consider that mistakes and abuses [are] theoretically possible in the case of the so-call voluntary death [and] cannot be rectified later,” he said.

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