Catholic bishops of Uruguay oppose assisted suicide bill

Montevideo, Uruguay, Jun 26, 2020 / 04:44 pm (CNA).- The Catholic bishops of Uruguay have spoken out against a bill that would allow for assisted suicide, calling it “homicide carried out in a clinical context.

“It is not ethically acceptable to cause the death of a patient, not even to avoid pain and suffering, even if he expressly requests it,” the Uruguayan Bishops’ Conference said in a document presented a June 19 press conference.

“Neither the patient, nor the medical staff, nor family members have the authority to decide on or cause a person’s death,” they said

The document was prepared by a team of experts, led by Auxiliary Bishop Pablo Jourdan of Montevideo, who is also a medical doctor, in response to the bill introduced in the legislature in March

The bill creates legal protections for doctors “who freely agree to help those who, in the circumstances and with the procedures established by law, ask them for assistance to end their lives.”

In their statement, the bishops argue that the legislation challenges “the absolute value of human life and its character as an untouchable and inalienable fundamental human right, and goes against the Constitution and human rights.”

If passed, the bishops said, the bill would open the door to euthanasia and assisted suicide, as well as the abuses seen in other countries where such practices are legalized, such as failure to obtain patient consent, and financial or family pressures leading to assisted suicide.

Opposing assisted suicide does not mean it is necessary to keep a patient alive through any means, the bishops clarified. They cautioned against an obstinate insistence on treatment that will prolong life without prospect of recovery, saying, “The application of disproportionate therapeutic and diagnostic procedures only serves to uselessly prolong the agony.”

However, they continued, palliative care can be properly used to alleviate suffering in the face of an untreatable condition and is a morally acceptable alternative to causing death in the patient.

People living with serious illnesses or approaching death “especially need and want all kinds of support, as well as pastoral care,” the bishops of Uruguay said. “It’s a fact consistent with the spiritual nature of the human being confirmed by sociological science.”

As the servant of humanity, they said, the Church wants to offer the light of Christ to illuminate the most painful and difficult human circumstances.

The bishops prayed that God would guide the legislators in their deliberations, toward “an Uruguay that welcomes, protects, supports, and accompanies each person throughout his existence, including the final stage of his earthly life, with the much needed assistance of the family, palliative medicine, and genuine religious experience.”

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