A radical change to society’s most foundational law, overturning the prohibition of euthanasia, would be ethically unjustifiable; could not ensure the legal protection of the vulnerable and would fail to uphold the dignity of the dying, according to a submission from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC).
The ACBC submission to the Inquiry into End of Life Choices was this week published on the Victorian Parliament’s Legal and Social Issues Committee’s website.
‘The clear conclusion of reason and experience is that euthanasia or assisted suicide cannot be made safe because no law allowing euthanasia can prevent vulnerable people from abuse,’ said Bishop Peter Comensoli, Bishops Delegate for Life Issues.
‘Rather than buying into the dishonest euphemism of “dying with dignity”, we would do better – and be more human – by dignifying the lives of the dying. Palliative care is one key way we can dignify the dying.’
There are clear distinctions between the intention of ending someone’s life and discontinuing medical treatment that is burdensome or extraordinary. The definition of euthanasia is sometimes confused by advocates.
‘Euthanasia refers to deliberately ending someone’s life to relieve their suffering. Euthanasia can be achieved by a lethal injection or by intentional neglect.
‘Euthanasia is not turning off a life support machine where there is no prospect of recovery. It is not ending treatment that is burdensome. It is not giving someone pain relief that might unintentionally hasten their death though pain relief will rarely, if ever, shorten life.’
The ACBC submission recommends a commitment from governments and the broader community to:
- affirm the value of people at the end of their lives and reject attempts to introduce deliberate killing
- encourage people to discuss and plan for their end of life care, and
- increase government investment to provide adequate palliative care, respite care and psychosocial support for carers.
The Catholic Church has set out a clear approach to planning for end of life care with resources for patients, residents and health care professionals provided by Catholic Health Australia and the ACBC on the My Future Care website: http://myfuturecare.org.au
A copy of the submission can be found on the ACBC website: https://www.catholic.org.au/about-us/public-policy-office-contact