Pope Francis greets attendees during a meeting with doctors, patients and members of the Italian Association of Medical Oncology at the Vatican. CNS photo/Vatican Media

Joint declaration against assisted suicide presented to Pope Francis

By  Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service
  • November 3, 2019

VATICAN CITY -- Religious leaders from the Catholic and Orthodox Churches joined with representatives from the Muslim and Jewish faiths to sign a joint declaration stating clear opposition to euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.

They also encouraged promoting palliative care so that dying patients could receive the best, most comprehensive physical, emotional, social, religious and spiritual care and appropriate support for their families.

The declaration came two days after the World Medical Association, meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia, “firmly opposed” euthanasia and assisted suicide, and endorsed the right of physicians to refuse to participate in euthanasia or make referrals for it.

Pope Francis met Oct. 28 with the signatories to the  multi-faith declaration, who presented him with a copy of the document. The signatories included representatives from the Vatican, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Patriarchate of Moscow and All Russia, Muslim and Jewish scholars and leaders.

In Canada, where euthanasia has been legal nationwide since 2016, the number of assisted suicides has continued to climb. Statistics Canada reports there have been 6,749 medically assisted deaths from December 2015, when it was first legal in Quebec, to Oct. 31, 2018. There were 2,614 medically-assisted deaths from January to October 2018 alone. 

The aim of the joint statement was to present the positions of the monotheistic faiths concerning “the values and practices relevant to the dying patient,” their families, health-care providers and policy makers who belong to one of these religions, said the declaration.

The faith leaders, it said, share “common goals and are in complete agreement in their approach to end-of-life situations,” affirming that:

  • Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are “inherently and consequentially morally and religiously wrong and should be forbidden with no exceptions. Any pressure upon dying patients to end their lives by active and deliberate actions is categorically rejected.”
  • “No health care provider should be coerced or pressured to either directly or indirectly assist in the deliberate and intentional death of a patient through assisted suicide or any form of euthanasia, especially when it is against the religious beliefs of the provider,” and as such, conscientious objection “should be respected.”
  • Professional palliative care should be available for everyone and “even when efforts to continue staving off death seem unreasonably burdensome, we are morally and religiously duty-bound to provide comfort, effective pain and symptoms relief, companionship, care and spiritual assistance to the dying patient and to her/his family.”
  • “We commend laws and policies that protect the rights and the dignity of the dying patient, in order to avoid euthanasia and promote palliative care.”

The joint statement said communities must help patients so that any fear of being a burden does not lead to their believing they have a life with no value, but rather they see they do deserve support until their life’s natural end.

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