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March 2003 Newsletter

The Church Can't Be Silent in Face of Legal Euthanasia

Addressing more than 2 million faithful gathered for Mass in Poland last August, Pope John Paul II warned of dangers posed when man "puts himself in God's place." The Pope's message in his sermon was a somber warning about a future where a lack of respect for life was leading the world to destruction. Modern man often "lives as if God does not exist," the Pope warned, "and even puts himself in God's place," referring to genetic engineering and euthanasia. "He claims for himself the Creator's right to interfere in the mystery of human life. He wishes to determine human life through genetic manipulation and establish the limit of death," Pope John Paul said.
Pope John Paul II also warned about the dangers of euthanasia, when he received the new Belgian ambassador to the Vatican. Belgium is the second country, after the Netherlands, to legalize this type of killing. In his October address to career diplomat Benoit Cardon De Lichtbuer, the Pontiff said that man, "created by God and called to share in His divine life, has always been at the center of the Christian vision of the world. For this reason the Church respects and defends the gift of life.” “How could she fail to express her intense disquiet and rejection of the laws recently passed in several countries legalizing active euthanasia?" the Holy Father asked. "In a society, where all too often only good health and economic profit seem to matter, it is important to take a different look at the persons who are feeble or nearing the end of their lives… setting up and developing palliative treatment for all the sick whose situation requires it," he added. This care "makes it possible to relieve pain and to accompany the dying with dignity," the Pope explained.

The following is from an article by Bradley Mattes of Life Issues Institute:
“Back in the 70s, those of us who were in the pro-life movement warned that euthanasia would follow abortion surely as night follows day. Here’s a brief update on what’s been happening around the world. Officials in the Netherlands have looked the other way as physicians practiced active euthanasia. In the beginning, eight carefully crafted guidelines were issued by the Dutch Minister for health to prevent abuse. Physicians had to abide by them to avoid prosecution. One by one, each and every protective guideline was eventually ignored until the carefully structured voluntary euthanasia program degenerated into patients being killed without their knowledge or consent. I have lectured in Holland on several occasions and have spoken with physicians who relayed first-hand situations where patients were being killed contrary to their wishes. The Dutch Patients Association is now hired by patients in the hospital to make sure they don’t fall victim to euthanasia. A Dutch government study showed that of 130,000 annual deaths, 25,306 (20%) involved euthanasia. Of the euthanasia cases, 14,691 deaths (58%) involved involuntary euthanasia. Of these, 1,000 died by active injections, 4,941 succumbed to morphine given in increasing doses to cause death and 8,750 died when their life-prolonging treatment stopped with the intention to cause death. Contrary to these findings, the Dutch Parliament recently officially legalized euthanasia. Belgium soon followed the lead of the Netherlands and also legalized euthanasia. The new law, which passed 86 to 51 with 10 abstentions, allows the killing of patients who are either terminally ill or simply depressed. There has been an aggressive push to make it legal in Switzerland also. Australia flirted with death when the Northern Territory legalized euthanasia, but was later reversed by the federal government. Pro-euthanasia forces have also made alarming gains right here in America. California and Maine narrowly defeated referenda on assisted suicide. Tragically, Oregon passed a physician-assisted suicide law and, to date, over 90 people have been legally killed. Of those opting for suicide, only one has indicated physical pain as the reason. Recently, Hawaii barely avoided legalizing euthanasia.
Contrary to what you might think, pain is not the most common reason people request euthanasia. The number one motivation is psychological pain, which can now be successfully treated 95% of the time. Our answer to depressed and terminally ill patients should not be syringes of poison and lethal pills. Science is well equipped to relieve their emotional and physical pain. As a result, we should concentrate on killing the pain, not the patient. This can be done with effective and compassionate palliative care. When we effectively address the physical and psychological needs of a dying patient, the desire for euthanasia fades away. The recent international victories of pro-death forces should serve as a sobering wakeup call to millions of Americans. As we have witnessed, pro-euthanasia organizations in our own country, encouraged by the success of their international counterparts, are determined to pursue their quest for a “good” death.” (end of article)

Dr. J. C. Willke of the Institute stated in a brochure on euthanasia, “Hippocrates lived before the time of Christ. Prior to his time, the medical practitioner had a dual role. One was to cure. One was to kill. The great contribution of Hippocrates, which passed into the Christian era and guided the medical profession for the next two millennia, was to separate the curing and killing functions of the physician. Henceforth, a physician would only cure. Down through the centuries in the Hippocratic oath has come the phrase, primum non nocere, "First do no harm." Now the oath of Hippocrates is no longer sworn by graduating medical students. With abortion, and the onrush of euthanasia, doctors, tragically, have again assumed that dual role.”
The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated in their Declaration on Euthanasia in 1980, “What a sick person needs, besides medical care, is love, the human and supernatural warmth with which the sick person can and ought to be surrounded by; all those close to him or her, parents and children, doctors and nurses.” We must be like Christ and reach out to those in need. Love them as Christ loves us.

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