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Euthanasia and Care of the Dying- a statement by the NZ Catholic Bishops

posted Nov 13, 2015, 8:19 PM by Parishes of The Holy Family   [ updated Nov 13, 2015, 8:22 PM ]
Life is full of blessings, challenges and opportunities. Even dying brings its own unique blessings, challenges and opportunities. ‘Dying well’ is as important as reaching our potential at school and at work, or finding happiness and fulfilment within our families and with our friends. The work of dying well often involves the healing and/or deepening of relationships. 

In 1995 we wrote: 
“Euthanasia occurs when a doctor, not an illness, kills a patient.”

At that time we drew attention to a very important distinction: it is one thing to withhold or withdraw extraordinary methods of keeping a person alive when it is no longer sensible to do so; it is another thing to do something, or omit to do something for the purpose of terminating a person’s life. In the former case, we are simply allowing a person to die. In the latter case, we are killing.

Even if it is done for what seems a good reason, (e.g. to prevent suffering), and even if it is done with the patient’s consent, it is still killing.
In a society in which many regard suffering as meaningless and intolerable, euthanasia is presented as a way of avoiding 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.

What kind of society would we have if euthanasia were legalised? People with advanced progressive illnesses, or simply in old age, may well find it difficult to trust their doctors and nurses. We need to ask: What would that do for the regard we have traditionally had for the medical and nursing professions? How
would this impact on the ability of doctors and nurses to help those who are not quite sure they can trust