Indian Catholic Church against passive and active euthanasia

Today the Indian Supreme Court has admitted the possibility of stopping treatment for the terminally ill. Parliament will have to legislate in the matter of living will. For the bishops, the "taking of innocent life is never a moral act." They oppose over-zealous treatment and are in favour of palliative care. “The mark of a good society is its ability and willingness to care for those who are most vulnerable.”

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – "The Church rejects any proposal concerning active euthanasia as well as passive euthanasia,” says a note issued by India’s Catholic bishops following a ruling by the country’s Supreme Court that allows passive euthanasia for the terminally ill.

The note is signed by Fr Stephen Fernandes, national secretary of the Office for Justice, Peace and Development of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI).

“No one,” the note reads, “can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a foetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying.”

Today the Supreme Court issued a historical albeit very controversial ruling, saying that every human being has the fundamental right to "die with dignity".

In their decision, the five justices laid down the conditions for euthanasia. The patient must make a "living testament" that gives explicit instructions about refusing medical assistance in case of irreversible coma. This will allow for the interruption of medical care.

The Court also clarifies what euthanasia means, namely the "withdrawal of medical treatment with the deliberate intention to hasten the death of a terminally-ill patient". It also noted that the living will is matter that falls on lawmakers.

For the Catholic Church, “No one has the right to ask for this act of killing for ourselves or for those entrusted to our care.”

"In India, the sanctity of life has hitherto been placed on the highest level. The right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution does not include within its scope the right to die. The taking of innocent life is never a moral act."

According to the CBCI, "Legalizing euthanasia would place the lives of vulnerable people at risk, including those whom others might be tempted to think would be better off dead.”

At the same time, the bishops acknowledge that, “Especially at the end of life, when it is clear that death is imminent and inevitable, no matter what medical procedures are attempted, one may refuse treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted.”

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (N.2278), "Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of ‘over-zealous’ treatment."

“Better access to high quality palliative care, greater support for care givers and enhanced end of life care will be the hallmark of a truly compassionate society. The mark of a good society is its ability and willingness to care for those who are most vulnerable.”