Colombian bishops: Euthanasia is a danger for the frailest and most vulnerable

Walter Sanchez Silva   By Walter Sanchez Silva for CNA

Gagliardi Photography/Shutterstock

ACI Prensa Staff, Jul 28, 2021 / 11:00 am (CNA).

The Colombian Bishops’ Conference decried the July 22 ruling of the Constitutional Court that expanded access to euthanasia to non-terminally ill patients. It said this practice not only offends the dignity of persons but is a “serious danger to the frailest and most vulnerable in our society.”

“The practice of euthanasia constitutes a serious offense to the dignity of the human person and encourages the corrosion of fundamental values of the social order,” the bishops said in a statement posted Monday on the conference website.

The bishops explained that expanding “the range of populations or cases in which euthanasia could be requested, as the current court order does, or extending it to other modalities, far from promoting a supposed right, would constitute a serious danger for the frailest and most vulnerable in our society, on whom the weight of the possible taking of their lives would hang, threatening personal freedom.”

The Constitutional Court ruled 6-3 on July 22 to expand access to euthanasia to patients undergoing intense suffering due to a serious and incurable illness or bodily injury. With that decision, it is no longer required that a patient be terminal to request euthanasia, as a 1997 ruling by the same court provided.

According to the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, the Court established that euthanasia will no longer be a crime “when it is carried out by a doctor with free and informed consent, prior to or after the diagnosis of the passive subject of the act, and provided that the patient suffers intense physical or mental suffering, originating from bodily injury or serious and incurable illness.”

The court stated that within the framework of “respect for human dignity, a person cannot be forced to continue living, when he suffers a serious and incurable disease that causes intense suffering, and has taken upon himself the autonomous decision to end his existence in the face of conditions that he considers incompatible with his conception of a dignified life.”

In 2015, the Ministry of Health issued some provisions for the application of the 1997 ruling; and on July 1 this year, the agency issued a resolution which explains and updates the procedures to exercise the “right to die with dignity,” legitimizing the application of euthanasia in the country.

In their statement, the Colombian bishops said that “conditions of serious illness or those related to the end of life must be faced with the greatest of  care and respect, since they are painful situations that put the entire person and family members to the test and which demand, as in no other circumstance, the exercise of personal freedom and the accompaniment of society.”

“We believe that the realities of human fragility and vulnerability must be taken up with an attitude of solidarity, confident that mutual care can make the intention to voluntarily take one’s life lessen, even in cases where, based on current medical knowledge, physical healing is no longer possible,” the bishops stated.

They then proposed four ways to achieve this attitude of solidarity.

The bishops noted “[t]he concern of the State to guarantee adequate health care to people suffering from bodily injury or serious and incurable illnesses, or who are terminal, especially when it comes to the poorest.”

They also emphasized the need to “help with financial resources and psychosocial intervention the most vulnerable families and caregivers.”

“The therapeutic efforts of health care personnel to adequately treat pain and respect the dignity of the patient until the moment of his natural death” are needed, the bishops said.

They urged promotion of “the virtues of citizenship by all social classes, to ensure affective and effective care for those most in need.”

The bishops also stressed that “a fraternal and supportive community is achieved when we are capable of overcoming individualism and making our lives converge around common values.”

“Conceiving human autonomy as a sovereign power of determination does not favor the construction of a social order in which we can feel like neighbors, all traveling in the same boat,” they warned.

The Colombian bishops expressed their desire “with the favor of God, who is always gracious and merciful, we may continue to discover the best ways to respect the right to life of every person and to strengthen the bonds of social friendship among all Colombians.”

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