Euthanasia: “People can ask for death, but doctor's obligation is preserving life”

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Why is euthanasia legal in five countries? When must or mustn't one stop treating a terminally ill patient? Is it morally and ethically acceptable to ask a doctor for an injection to end someone's own life?

There is an indefinite number of questions about euthanasia. It's an endless debate that must be analyzed from various perspectives – medical, familial, religious and most importantly, the sick person's own view.  

The World Medical Association has joined doctors and experts from around the world at the Vatican to best respond to some of these topics. 

President, German Medical Association
“It is not unethical for a person to ask for death but it is unethical for a physician to deliver death because the physicians prime obligation is toward preserving the life of its patients and to offer him alternatives such as palliative care, such of hospice movements, such as devotion and being present but not simply killing the patient.”

This doctor assures what's most worrying is that, in some cases, they resort to euthanasia without properly evaluating the patient's condition. A shocking statistic is that they will have administered euthanasia on more than 7,000 people in Holland by the end of this year.

President, German Medical Association
“There are sometimes elderly people who are not really sick but they are just tired of life and we therefore think that euthanasia is a very slippery slope toward making life accessible for society, for people and simply ending life which is sometimes cheaper than treating people correctly.”

Seventy percent of industrialized countries' populations consider euthanasia “a way out.” It's a statistic that worries experts. 

Moral Theology, University of Santa Cruz
“Euthanasia is a solution to a problem. It's not a good solution, but the problem exists and that problem is one of the pain and suffering at the end of life. For the last few years, it seems they are approaching things in a much more acceptable way in terms of palliative care.”

Experts assure the problem with palliative care isn't its cost, but rather the lack of awareness within the medical community of what's important, which is relieving the patient's suffering. 

Palliative care programs were developed with the hope of relieving the physical and emotional suffering of terminally ill patients. Physical therapy, counseling, painkillers and inhibitors are some examples. 

Moral Theology, University of Santa Cruz
“It's one thing to say something isn't right, which is what the Church, which has a mission of teaching, does. It's another thing to say we have to punish and never forgive whoever makes a mistake and does things wrong.”

In his address to the convention, Pope Francis explained, “it is morally licit to decide not to adopt therapeutic measures, or to discontinue them, when their use does not meet that ethical and humanistic standard that would later be called 'due proportion in the use of remedies.'”

The Church's position is firm – euthanasia will never be an acceptable way of dying. That's why it insists doctors and experts have a duty to assist patients and relieve their pain until their final natural breath. 

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