(RightWing.org) – In recent years, organized religion has often found itself fighting a losing battle against social convention. This is perhaps most evident in the discussion around abortion. Christian churches largely remain opposed to abortion, but more and more countries around the world are legislating to allow unfettered access to termination services for pregnant women.
There’s a similar issue arising in the general conversation around assisted suicide and euthanasia. However, there’s more to unpack here than one may realize.
The Catholic Church’s Developing Stance on Assisted Suicide
On January 15 of this year, La Civiltà Cattolica (LCC), a Catholic publication based out of Rome, Italy, published an article about the church’s view on assisted suicide. The article’s publication came within the context of the Italian government’s ongoing effort to enact legislation dealing with end-of-life situations.
The piece suggested the Catholic Church should support assisted suicide rather than euthanasia. This is somewhat surprising, as the Church’s official stance is currently that neither is acceptable. The article’s signatory is Carlo Casalone SJ, a moral theologian and teacher at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
Subsequent publications discussing the article have emphasized it marks a significant change in the church’s outlook on the topic of assisted suicide and euthanasia. The church is essentially saying that, if it had a choice between the two, it would pick assisted suicide, as there is less scope for abuse of the practice than with euthanasia.
What’s the Difference Between Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide?
Assisted suicide and euthanasia are similar concepts, but there are important differences between them.
Euthanasia occurs when someone (generally a doctor) deliberately brings an end to someone’s life to prevent them from suffering. Assisted suicide occurs when someone helps someone else to end their own life; there is technically no requirement for ending suffering as a motivating factor for partaking in assisted suicide.
For example, a doctor administering lethal injections at an end-of-life clinic is carrying out euthanasia. Depending on the laws in a given country, someone who aids a sick person in crossing international borders to reach an end-of-life clinic might be engaging in assisted suicide.
Assisted dying is another relevant term. It’s a similar concept to assisted suicide, but would only apply to patients with advanced terminal illnesses. Campaigners in some countries want to see the introduction of rules that facilitate legal assisted dying in limited circumstances.
This is a thorny and highly sensitive area of the law that most countries have yet to grapple with in a meaningful way. Many socially progressive political outfits support legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide, so it’s likely to remain at the forefront of debate in countries around the world in the coming years.
Do you think assisted suicide or euthanasia should be legal in the United States? Should the Catholic church condone either one?
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