Legalising euthanasia would introduce a whole new, and dangerous, dimension to society, said the New Zealand Catholic Bishops in a statement released today.
In the statement titled “The Dangers of Euthanasia” the bishops outline a number of risks often omitted or downplayed in debates around euthanasia.
One of the dangers is that the demand for euthanasia cannot be limited to a carefully defined group and vulnerable members of the community would be put at risk.
Archbishop John Dew, President of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, says that there is more at stake in this debate than the protection of individual choice, often emphasised by pro-euthanasia advocates.
“If individual choice was the basis for legalising euthanasia then there would be no logical basis for denying it to a person who is depressed or someone with dementia. Alternatively, if someone was considered incapable of giving informed consent, but their family claimed it was what they would want, whose responsibility would it be to decide whether they should live or die? Some might argue that adequate safeguards can be built into the law, but the experience of those countries that have legalised euthanasia shows this is not the case.”
Another risk is that the ‘right to die’ could very quickly become a ‘duty to die’.
“The disabled and elderly are already being given the message that they’re a burden on economy and health resources. The vulnerable members of our society depend upon the protections which the legal and medical institutions currently provide and legalising euthanasia would undermine these,” says Archbishop Dew.
“Even when it is done with the most compassionate of intentions and with a patient’s consent, euthanasia is still the killing of another person. To legalise this would set a dangerous precedent.
Evidence shows that most people who ask to be assisted to die are not driven by physical pain but by a sense of social isolation and a fear of losing their dignity and control. Ending lives is not the solution to this problem. Part of the solution is to improve the quality of care at the end of life. This can only happen if we commit to a culture of caring, not killing”.
To arrange an interview with Archbishop John Dew or a Catholic Bishop in your area contact:
New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference
Tel 04 496 1725, Mob 021 611 052