By Robin Gomes
A ruling by the nation’s Supreme Court that allows euthanasia for the terminally ill has been criticized by India’s Catholic Church that says that the mark of good society is its ability and willingness to care for the most vulnerable of society.
"The Church rejects any proposal concerning active euthanasia as well as passive euthanasia,” read a note signed by Father Stephen Fernandes, national secretary of the Office for Justice, Peace and Development of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI).
In a landmark verdict on Friday, India's apex court ruled that individuals had a right to die with dignity, allowing passive euthanasia with guidelines. The court also permitted individuals to draft a "living will" specifying that they not be put on life support if they slip into an incurable coma.
The five-judge Constitution bench headed by the Chief Justice of India said, "human beings have a right to die with dignity". Passive euthanasia will be applicable to only a terminally ill person with no hope for recovery, the court said.
Human life sacred in all its forms
Fr. Fernandes wrote, “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.” He said that in their decision the five judges laid down the conditions for euthanasia, which allow the interruption of medical care.
According to the teaching of the Catholic Church, “No one has the right to ask for this act of killing for ourselves or for those entrusted to our care.”
Vulnerable life at risk
Fr. Fernandes noted that "In India, the sanctity of life has hitherto been placed on the highest level.” He pointed to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which he said “does not include within its scope the right to die.” “The taking of innocent life,” he said, “is never a moral act."
According to the Indian bishops, "Legalizing euthanasia would place the lives of vulnerable people at risk, including those whom others might be tempted to think would be better off dead.”
Concerning the end of life situation, the bishops acknowledge that “when it is clear that death is imminent and inevitable, no matter what medical procedures are attempted, one may refuse treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted.”
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (N.2278), "Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of ‘over-zealous’ treatment."
Compassionate society cares for the vulnerable
Fr. Fernandes said that “Better access to high quality palliative care, greater support for care givers and enhanced end of life care will be the hallmark of a truly compassionate society.” “The mark of a good society is its ability and willingness to care for those who are most vulnerable,” he added. (Source: AsiaNews)