06 Catholic Teaching on Euthanasia - Bishop Gerald John Mathias

posted Apr 5, 2018, 9:40 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 5, 2018, 9:40 AM ]
On March 9, 2018, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court of India, headed by Chief Justice Dipak Kumar Misra passed a ruling legalising passive euthanasia and sanctioning living wills. This ruling will have serious repercussions and adverse impacts on the poor and vulnerable in India. Euthanasia is not just a legal issue, but primarily a moral issue. Often, the judiciary and legislature do not take into account the morality of an action that is under consideration, but legislate or rule purely on the basis of utilitarian principles and human considerations e.g. Laws on abortion, same-sex unions, euthanasia, etc. The Supreme Court has not legalised active euthanasia, but only passive euthanasia. But we must look into the moral aspect of this important Supreme Court judgment legalising passive euthanasia, and see what our moral obligations are as taught by the Magisterium of the Church.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in its Declaration on Euthanasia defines Euthanasia as "an action or an omission which of itself or by intention causes death, in order that all suffering may in this way be eliminated."

Active euthanasia involves the direct killing of a terminally ill patient by administering some lethal drug or injection. Passive euthanasia, on the other hand, is when the patient is allowed to die by the withdrawal of all medical treatment, even normal food and water. The end result in both active and passive euthanasia is the same – death of the patient. This intended death is morally culpable, whether it is achieved by commission or omission.

The Vatican document quoted above states firmly that "nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a foetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for the act of killing, either for himself or herself, or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action. For it is a question of violation of the divine law, an offence against the dignity of the human person, a crime against life, and an attack on humanity."