During their Plenary Assembly on March 22nd in Lourdes, a Declaration was signed by the 118 Bishops of France entitled: “End-of-life: yes to the urgency of fraternity! ». In their text, they urgently call for continuing to develop palliative care and to oppose the possible legalization of euthanasia.
While commending the efforts of healthcare professionals who try to give patients a better quality at the end of their lives, the bishops lament “the fact that there is inequality of access to palliative care and insufficient training for medical staff and caregivers, which sometimes leads to tragic suffering”.
At a time when those who promote euthanasia are requesting a new legislation during the National Bioethical Conferences which are currently taking place, the bishops counsel “to avoid misjudging the real emergency” and call for “ awakening consciences”. They reiterate their opposition to euthanasia due to six ethical reasons:
- The application of the last law on the end of life (February 2, 2016) is “still largely a work in progress, and requires appropriate training”. Out of respect for the legislative work done, caregivers and patients, it is too early to judge this law.
- Even under guided supervision, facilitating assisted suicide or euthanasia, “would be transgressing the civil imperative of the ‘prohibition to kill’ and would become inscribed into the heart of our society.
- Entrusting healthcare workers with the task of carrying out requests for assisted suicide or euthanasia would contradict the medical vocation and its’ Medical Code of Ethics: “The doctor, at the service of the individual and public health, carries out his mission in respect of human life, the individual and his dignity “.
- Vulnerable people need “trust and to feel they are listened to in order to share their desires, even though these desires are often ambivalent”. “The distress of those who sometimes ask for an end to their life must be heard. It calls for a more attentive accompaniment, not a premature abandonment to the silence of death. “
- The concept of freedom is at issue. Whereas the promoters of assisted suicide and euthanasia claim “the sovereign choice of the patient, his desire to control his destiny” and that “the exercise of this right does not depreciate the person”, the bishops recall that “freedom is never alone, it is always interconnected”…”personal choices, whether we agree or not, always have a collective dimension”.
- Providing “medical help to die” paves the way for creating “specialized death clinics”, which would raise the issue of the type and financing. Thus “it is pressuring our healthcare system to impose an agonizing guilt on caregivers and fellow citizens. Everyone may be led to wonder:” Shouldn’t I consider ending my own life one day? “
Tugdual Derville, Alliance VITA’s General Delegate, founder of SOS End-of-Life, and author of “The Battle Against Euthanasia” (Salvator Editions)
“The fact that the bishops are unanimously opposed to euthanasia is not surprising. However, it is significant that they took care of signing this lengthy and uncommon text in a collegiate manner, to address conditions regarding the end-of-life. To recall, as they do with humanity, the link between the prohibition to kill and a true fraternity is essential for our country.
As in the Bishops’ Declaration, we also agree that the issue of end-of-life in France calls for other emergencies than passing a new law. We must remain attentive on how the previous laws are implemented: a broad interpretation could be a slippery slope towards masked forms of euthanasia.
We must also acknowledge the actual involvement of many Christians in the field of palliative care: as caregivers or volunteers, they contribute, in a creative way, to social fraternity, serving those who are most vulnerable. “