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."