Legislation that is shortly to come before Parliament seeking to legitimise voluntary euthanasia is placing our society at a critical juncture.
We believe that life is the most basic gift of a loving God – a gift over which we have stewardship but not absolute dominion. Passing through death into eternal life is also God’s gift. A gift is received, not grasped or taken on our own terms.
The right of the individual to choose is not an absolute value. Individuals must make their choices within the parameters of right and wrong. Wrong does not become right because the individual chooses it.
We recognise that we are not morally obliged to use extraordinary means to keep a terminally ill person alive, but our tradition clearly affirms that one may never directly intend to cause one’s own death, or the death of another by action or omission.
Legalising voluntary euthanasia presents a threat of unforeseeable magnitude to vulnerable members of our society, and indeed to all of us. The elderly, and those with disabilities or terminal illness are especially vulnerable, and could be justifiably alarmed at the prospect of pressure from others suggesting to them the ‘freedom’ to be killed.
It raises an ethical dilemma for healthcare professionals who would be asked to apply this legislation, and it places the state in conflict with the consciences of those families who wish to see their loved ones cared for, not killed.
We congratulate those healthcare professionals, the families and the hospice movement in New Zealand who give terminally ill patients the kind of care that removes all pressures and the possibility of desperate decisions. We congratulate those doctors who have been speaking strongly in opposition to this proposed legislation. It is up to all of us and our politicians to support their efforts.
Next week, all parishes and schools will receive material from the Nathaniel Centre (the New Zealand Catholic Bioethics Centre) which will give a very clear and comprehensive analysis of the proposed legislation.
Because the implications of this legislation are so serious, we urge you to lobby your local Member of Parliament to make sure that they do all they can to nurture the gift of life.
Further information available at The NZ Catholic Bioethics Centre