Assisted Suicide Is Abominable Crime

Author: Fr. Gino Concetti, O.F.M.

Assisted Suicide Is Abominable Crime

by Fr Gino Concetti, O.F.M.

The legalization of euthanasia in Northern Territory, Australia, introduces a new monstrous chapter in human history. The restrictive conditions envisaged by the law are only apparently such. In reality- as the experience of abortion confirms-it is easy later on to find loopholes to get around the provisions.

However, apart from these legal minutiae, one serious, indeed, very serious fact remains: for the first time a State has decided to legalize euthanasia and to allow its application.

The reactions of all those who considered the law a disgrace and harmful to the dignity and rights of the human person have been firm and inflexible since it was first drafted. But to no avail.

This law was approved by a narrow margin of votes last May and will take effect on 1 July. The Supreme Court's decision and repeal legislation by the National Parliament are now to be awaited.

Marshall Perron, former chief minister and proponent of the , said in his "First Reading Speech" on 22 February 1995 that "the bill is based on a relatively simple principle: if there are terminally ill patients who wish to end their own sufferings by accelerating inevitable death, and there are sympathetic doctors who are willing to help them die with dignity, then the law should not forbid it".

Australian associations opposed to the bill recall how it calls to mind the spectre of Nazism. Many have asked themselves: "If euthanasia is to be permitted because of the physical sufferings of the terminally ill, could it not just as easily be legalized for those experiencing emotional or psychological suffering?".

This observation is anything but abstract or hypothetical. Once the basic principle is violated, in practice justifications will always be found for ending the life of a suffering person and, especially, of one who is a burden to his family and to society. The consequences that will ensue are unpredictable and incalculable. The culture of death will create so many premises of the sort that every euthanasic intervention will be deemed licit, indeed, "normal". Since euthanasia has become a "problem" and has been claimed as a modern "civil right", it has been decriminalized.

The "right to death with dignity" in the sense implied by the advocates of euthanasia is non-existent. A dignified death is one in accord with the dignity of the human person and which does not violate the principle of the right to life.

This is not the case with euthanasia. Whether it is a question of "assisted suicide" or "suicide-homicide", it is substantially the same thing: a crime, an abominable crime against human life. That man is not the master of life but must be its wise steward has been reiterated and taught down the centuries. As a result, he cannot be the "lord" of death, which must occur as a "natural event". No one is permitted to hasten death by any means whatever.

To kill, to cut short or to end life is always a crime. This is true even when it is done out of pity or when one wishes to avoid the suffering of an irreversible terminal condition. Whoever causes his own death or that of others is violating this principle, even if death has been requested and the procedure follows what has been established by civil law.

The life of a human person is sacred and inviolable. In creating it, God sealed it with sacredness and inviolability. He alone is the Lord of life and death and has delegated this lordship to no one. The former chief minister, Perron, was aware of this when he stated: "If you believe that only God can give life and only God can take it, actions available under this bill are not for you. I aim simply to give those who desire a choice the right to make it".

Radical freedom exceeds all boundaries. The ego replaces God, and the State, right and reason. It is not of course this type of State that is established by democratic constitutions. In its legislative function, the State cannot deny its mission to serve the human person, to protect and promote his rights especially his fundamental and primordial right to life. A State that behaves this way is opposed to man.

The decline in ethical and legal values are among the causes fueling the euthanasia movement. With the eclipse of the sacred, an authentic concept of human life is increasingly lost. From being a value in himself, man is reduced to a functional good. Life is worth living as long as it is satisfying. When it loses this quality, when it becomes a burden, when it creates sufferings which are not easy to bear, then it is - preferable to end it. The true solution for the irreversibly terminally ill must not be sought in euthanasia - a monstrous and aberrant crime-but in the help that society, the family, and movements can give them. With-dignified hospital structures, efficient health services, human solidarity and Christian comfort. The terminally ill patient reminds us of the reality of life, marked by a natural dawning and setting, but with transcendent value.

Taken from the July 10, 1996 issue of "L'Osservatore Romano."