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Doctors, religious and laity to discuss euthanasia in congress at Vatican

At the end of this year, the Netherlands, the first country that legalized euthanasia, will have applied it on more than 7,000 patients, an increase of 67 percent compared to five years ago.

Euthanasia is fully legal in five countries: the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia, Luxembourg and Canada. However, more people are speaking about it. According to Carlo Casalone from the Pontifical Academy for Life, it's because more cases are becoming public due to medical advancements and the diffusion of mass media.

That is why the Vatican has organized a congress for November 17-18 to join doctors and experts, religious and laity to discuss this delicate issue. For example, according to Catholic morality, euthanasia must be distinguished from interrupting treatment to the terminally ill.

Physician, Surgeon and Theologian

"The 1980 document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith entitled 'Iura et bona' eliminated the concept of active and passive euthanasia. We call it euthanasia when the intervention intentionally and directly causes death. Euthanasia is not just an external act, the intention is also very important."

He explains that euthanasia is not considered when a terminally ill patient decides to interrupt a treatment because he is agonizing, since in this case, he does not do so with the intention to die, but to halt a form of therapy that causes pain without obtaining results.

He assures that the Church's response to this situation will always be to resort to palliative care. The problem is that not all people have the economic or social resources to receive it.

Physician, Surgeon and Theologian

"The first element that we must consider is that palliative cures have advanced a lot and therefore there are more effective ways to relieve pain and suffering than in the past. Shortening life is a way of not respecting a fundamental internal judgment, 'You shall not kill,' which is one that structures our society."

According to studies, one out of four relatives of a patient who has died from euthanasia develops stress and imbalances, as he feels guilty for having allowed him to die.

Due to the countless questions and variables involved, it is difficult for physicians, patients and family members to discern ethically, morally and spiritually what is the best solution. The Pontifical Academy for Life hopes that this congress will help resolve these doubts.