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What does the Catholic Church teach about euthanasia?

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Philip Kosloski - published on 04/25/23

Euthanasia, in any form, including "assisted suicide" or "medical assistance in dying," is in direct conflict with the moral law.

As many countries and states pass laws expanding the legality of euthanasia, the Catholic Church stands firm in her opposition to all forms of assisted suicide.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states what the Church teaches:

Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible.

Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.

CCC 2276-2277

This is not to be confused with extraordinary medical procedures, which are not classified as “direct euthanasia.”

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. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.

CCC 2278

Furthermore, “ordinary care” for a dying individual is not to be withheld.

Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.

CCC 2279 

Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken out against euthanasia on multiple occassions.

The Holy Father has often insisted that when the elderly or sick are truly cared for, the desire to hasten death evaporates.

We must accompany people towards death, but not provoke death or facilitate any form of suicide. I would point out that the right to care and treatment for all must always be prioritized, so that the weakest, particularly the elderly and the sick, are never discarded. Life is a right, not death, which must be welcomed, not administered. And this ethical principle applies to everyone, not just Christians or believers.

The Holy Father has said that “accelerating the death of the elderly” is a “real social problem,” especially in regard to the elderly poor. He lamented when they are given fewer medicines than they need because they are poor. “This is neither human nor Christian.”

The Catholic Church classifies euthanasia as a type of murder, whereby an individual intentionally kills someone who no longer wants to live.

Euthanasia is never to be defended or promoted as a “medical” procedure.

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