Poor "Quality of Life" Doesn't Justify Euthanasia, Says Pope

Rather, It Calls for Better Care, He Says

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 22, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The lack of "quality of life" is no reason to cause a person's death, but rather calls for greater loving care from those aiding the patient, insists John Paul II.



"The value of the life of a human being cannot be subjected to a judgment on its quality as expressed by other human beings," the Pope explained on Saturday when receiving the participants of an international congress organized by the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The Holy Father said that considerations about "quality of life" are "often dictated, in reality, by pressures of a psychological, social and financial character."

In No. 65 of his encyclical "Evangelium Vitae," the Pontiff explained: "Euthanasia in the strict sense is understood to be an action or omission which of itself and by intention causes death, with the purpose of eliminating all suffering. 'Euthanasia's terms of reference, therefore, are to be found in the intention of the will and in the methods used.'"

In his address Saturday, the Pope distinguished euthanasia "from the decision to forgo so-called aggressive medical treatment, in other words, medical procedures which no longer correspond to the real situation of the patient, either because they are by now disproportionate to any expected results or because they impose an excessive burden on the patient and his family."

Yet, "no evaluation of costs can prevail over the value of the fundamental good that is being protected, human life," the Holy Father said.

"To admit that one can decide on the life of the human being in virtue of a recognition of its quality from outside, is equivalent to recognizing that one can attribute to any person from outside increasing or decreasing levels of quality of life and, therefore, of human dignity," he said.

In this case, "a discriminatory and eugenic principle" would be introduced "in social relations," the Pope observed.

John Paul II highlighted the moral principle, according to which "even the simple doubt of finding oneself in the presence of a living person already poses the obligation of full respect for him and of abstaining from any action that would seek to anticipate his death."

He added, however, that this defense of the fundamental right to life, in particular in the case of patients in a vegetative state, must be accompanied by "positive actions," specifically, by supporting the families of the sick.

"They cannot be left alone with their heavy human, psychological and financial burden," the Pope said. "Society must commit available resources to offer them help. In this area, doctors and health agents, as well as volunteers who help with assistance to the sick," play a decisive part, constituting "fundamental support so that the family can emerge from isolation."

The Church feels personally committed to helping families of the sick, the Pope said. He emphasized at the same time the "importance of spiritual consultation and pastoral help, as an aid to recover the most profound meaning of an apparently desperate condition."

The theme of the congress, held in Rome from March 17-20, was "Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemmas."