by ROWENA OREJANA
The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference has again rejected euthanasia, in response to a petition to Parliament.
The Health Select Committee received a petition from Minister Maryan Street and about 9000 others asking the House of Representatives to investigate public attitudes towards a bill that would allow medically assisted dying.
In their statement, the bishops said there is no need for euthanasia. Instead, they said, “we need to learn how to live and die well”.
“In a society in which many regard suffering as meaningless and intolerable, euthanasia is presented as a way
to avoid suffering. This can be made to look like an attractive option, or even a right. But to legalise the killing of those who are suffering would be to introduce a whole new and dangerous dimension to society,” they said.
“True compassion calls for us all to stand alongside, and in solidarity with, all those who are suffering,” the statement added.
In the bishops’ statement, they pointed out that allowing medically assisted suicide would affect the relationship between patients with advanced progressive illnesses and their doctors or nurses.
“How would this impact on the ability of doctors and nurses to help those who are not quite sure they [patients] can trust them [doctors and nurses]?” they asked.
The bishops also said that the experiences of other countries have shown that euthanasia cannot be limited to one group.
“Once we allow access to euthanasia for some, the reasons for confining it to just that group begin to look arbitrary. It is quickly argued that to deprive those incapable of giving consent to euthanasia is an injustice. It is also argued that allowing it for some conditions and not others is discriminatory,” they said.
The abuse of the disabled and elderly is already a serious issue here and abroad, they pointed out.
“Legalising euthanasia has the potential to worsen the problem in a society where the numbers of elderly are growing and where pressure on the health budget is increasing,” they said.
In a society where euthanasia is legal, the “right to die” may quickly become the “duty to die”.
“The disabled, sick and elderly may more easily come to see themselves as an excessive financial and emotional burden,” the bishops said.
When the right to die becomes a duty to die, there is neither free choice nor real consent, they said.
The bishops, in their statement, said research shows that persistent requests for euthanasia are not related to physical pain but to depression.
“There is a deeper malaise: Our society has failed to respond in a satisfactory way to the emotional, psychological and spiritual suffering that people often feel at the end of life,” they said.
“The real moral imperative is on us all to be bearers of hope and to offer selfless care to all those who are sick, disabled and dying while ensuring that there are adequate resources for palliative care,” they said.