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Italy's bishops: Society loses 'light of reason' with legalization of euthanasia

CNA Friday, 27 September 2019
Rome, Italy, Sep 27, 2019 / 03:41 pm (CNA).- Pro-life advocates are decrying the ruling of an Italian court this week that decriminalized euthanasia and assisted suicide in the cases of patients who have an “irreversible” condition and are experiencing “intolerable suffering.”

According to the court’s ruling, anyone who "facilitates the suicidal intention... of a patient kept alive by life-support treatments and suffering from an irreversible pathology" will not be penalized, The Telegraph reported.

The ruling made in the majority-Catholic country was met with strong opposition from the country’s Catholic bishops' conference and other opponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The ruling creates “the preconditions for a culture of death, in which society loses the light of reason,” Bishop Stefano Russo, Bishop Emeritus of Fabriano-Matelica and secretary-general of the conference, said after the decision, according to the AP.

The decision came after the court considered the case of Fabiano Antoniani, known as DJ Fabo, who in 2017 died at the age of 40 at a euthanasia clinic in Switzerland. The DJ had quadriplegia and was left blind after a serious car accident in 2014, and required assistance for eating and breathing.

Marco Cappato, an activist for euthanasia and assisted suicide, had been accused of assisting in DJ Fabo’s death, but was effectively cleared by the court. Under the previous law, he would have faced a possible 12 years in prison for participating in an assisted suicide.

“...as of today, all of us in Italy are freer,” Cappato said after the ruling, The Telegraph reported.

A week prior to the ruling, Pope Francis told an audience of Italian doctors that euthanasia and assisted suicide offer “false compassion.”

“It is important that the doctor does not lose sight of the singularity of each patient, with his dignity and fragility. A man or a woman to accompany with conscience, with intelligence and heart, especially in the most serious situations,” he said Sept. 20.

“With this attitude, one can and must reject the temptation – induced also by legislative changes – to use medicine to support a possible desire for death by the patient, providing assistance to suicide or causing death directly with euthanasia,” Francis added.

Euthanasia differs from assisted suicide in that it occurs when someone else is the one diretly to kill the patient, typically through a lethal dose of medication. Assisted suicide occurs when a patient administers a lethal dose of medication or some other lethal medical intervention to kill themselves.

Care Not Killing, a UK-based organization that promotes palliative care instead of euthanasia or assisted suicide, expressed “concern and disappointment” at the decision of the Italian court in a statement.

“Alarmingly, this ruling seems to allow for those with chronic, non-life threatening conditions, which in the UK would apply to around 11 million people,” Dr. Gordon Macdonald, Chief Executive of Care Not Killing, said in the statement.

“The current law exists to protect the terminally ill, disabled people and the vulnerable from feeling pressure, real or perceived from ending their lives as we often see in those places that made this change,” he said.

Concerns about coercion and discrimination against the elderly, the disabled, and the mentally ill are common among opponents of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Macdonald noted that in the states of Oregon and Washington, where assisted suicide is legal, terminally ill patients who choose to die often cite fears of being a “burden” on family or caretakers as the reason for their decision.

He also noted that cancer patients or others with serious illnesses in these states have been “refused potentially life-saving and life-extending treatments, while being offered the poison to kill themselves.”

Macdonald also noted that in Canada, which legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide in 2016, promises of improved palliative care have “not materialized” and any safeguarding measures originally put in place have already been removed. In the Netherlands and Belgium, such laws have expanded to allow non-mentally competent adults and “even children” to choose euthanasia or assisted suicide, he added.

“This is why Parliamentarians across the UK have repeatedly rejected attempts to introduce assisted suicide and euthanasia, more than ten times since 2003, out of concern for public safety, including in 2015 when the House of Commons overwhelmingly voted against any change in the law by 330 votes to 118,” he noted.

“It also explains why not a single doctors group or major disability rights organization supports changing the law, including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Physicians, the British Geriatric Society and the Association for Palliative Medicine. Our current law does not need changing.”

Simone Pillon, an Italian legislator, told The Telegraph that human life is “sacred and inviolable” and that the ruling would “weigh on (the judges’) consciences for life.”

A Catholic association of doctors told The Telegraph that they would not comply with the new ruling.
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