Catholic Doctors Want European Council to Oppose Euthanasia

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 22, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Doctors Want European Council to Oppose Euthanasia

by Maria Gallagher Staff Writer
January 22, 2004

Rome, Italy ( — Catholic doctors around the world are speaking out about the dangers of euthanasia, or so-called "mercy killing."

The International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations has come out strongly against a European Council report favoring euthanasia.

The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly is set to vote on the pro-euthanasia report Jan. 29.

The Catholic Medical Associations, which represent some 30,000 physicians, are warning against the possible legal consequences if the report is approved.

Josep Simon, president of the Association of Catholic Doctors of Catalonia, told the ZENIT news agency, "For us and for the Holy See, the report of Swiss Dick Marty is devastating, in addition to being incongruent with previous votes of the Council of Europe."

For years, the Council has opposed euthanasia.

The European Council report contends that doctors who practice euthanasia should be protected by law — a statement which, according to pro-life physicians, would give doctors license to kill at will.

Simon told ZENIT, "We believe that the medical profession is not there to kill patients. Professionals and many international institutions have always acknowledged that palliative care is the best way to counteract euthanasia."

In 1999, the Parliamentary Association approved a recommendation stating that terminally-ill patients should be given palliative care, and that euthanasia violates Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Opponents of the pro-euthanasia report also point out that the World Health Organization published a statement in 1990 noting that, if palliative care is followed, pro-euthanasia laws are unnecessary.

According to Dr. Gian Luigi Gigli, president of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, "The Marty report aims at introducing, in the Countries where they do not exist yet, laws exempting the physicians who help incurable patients put an end to their lives (if they request it) from legal prosecution.

"In other words, the Marty Report will ask all European Countries to promote the introduction of a euthanasia law, similarly to what has already been done in Holland and Belgium," Gigli said.

Gigli adds that the resolution, if approved, would place a "tremendous element of pressure" on national Parliaments, doctors, and individuals to accept euthanasia.

"We demand that in all laws concerning medical ethical matters physicians and nurses are guaranteed the right to lawfully abstain from actions that are in conflict with their religious faith and/or moral convictions," Gigli said.

Gigli adds that doctors who are trained in palliative care are far less likely to consider euthanasia for their patients.

"Provisions for optimal palliative care at the end of life, especially for the weak patient, are mandatory for a society that wishes to be characterized as advanced," Gigli said.

"This care should be offered in a loving environment where the patient does not feel himself a burden to neither his relatives nor the society. It is the responsibility of the society to guarantee such facilities."

The Catholic doctors’ group also notes that, if euthanasia is legalized in any society, it is highly likely that killing will become acceptable within society.