New Delhi: The Catholic Church in India says it cannot accept any proposal to introduce passive or active euthanasia.
“Legalizing euthanasia would place the lives of vulnerable people at risk, including those whom others might be tempted to think would be better off dead,” warns Father Stephen Fernandes, national secretary of the Office for Justice Peace and Development under the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.
The Church official was reacting to the Supreme Court of India allowing passive euthanasia, stating that human beings have the right to die with dignity.
The March 9 order was passed by a five-judge Constitution bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan. The apex court’s order came on a plea by the NGO ‘Common Cause.’
However, the Supreme Court set out strict guidelines for the mercy killing.
The top court also allowed an individual to draft a living will specifying that they not be put on life support if they slip into an incurable coma in the future. In a ‘living will,, a person can state in advance that their life should not be prolonged by putting them on a ventilator or an artificial support system.
Although the judges gave four separate opinions, all of them were unanimous that a ‘living will’ should be allowed, because an individual should not be allowed to continue suffering in a vegetative state when they don’t wish to continue living.
Father Fernandes says the “Church rejects any proposal concerning active euthanasia as well as passive euthanasia.”
He says no one can in any way permit “the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying.”
“No one has the right to ask for this act of killing for ourselves or for those entrusted to our care. In India, the sanctity of life has hitherto been placed on the highest level,” the Church official said in a statement.
The priest pointed out that the right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution does not include within its scope the right to die. “The taking of innocent life is never a moral act,” he asserted.
“Especially at the end of life, when it is clear that death is imminent and inevitable, no matter what medical procedures are attempted, one may refuse treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted.”
Father Fernandes says the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “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.
He suggests as alternative better access to high quality palliative care, greater support for care givers and enhanced end of life care, which he says “will be the hallmark of a truly compassionate society.”
“The mark of a good society is its ability and willingness to care for those who are most vulnerable,” he added.