ProLife Forum: Compassionate Homicide
Compassionate Homicide QUESTION from Ruth February 24, 2001 What are the beliefs of the Catholic Church in respect to compassionate homicide, more specifically, in the case of Robert Latimer in 1993?
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, O.L.S.M. on March 12, 2001 Dear Miss Ruth:
I am not familiar with the case of Robert Latimer, but the answer to your question is not dependent upon any particular case.
No matter what the case, euthanasia, assisted-suicide, or any other active attempts to end a life other than natural causes is murder and this a grave sin.
Extra-ordinary and over-zealous measures to artificially keep one alive may be withheld in certain circumstances as one here is not trying to cause death but merely recognizing that one cannot stop death and such measures are artificially prolonging the envetiable and nature process. But normal care such as pain medicine, bodily care, food, drink, etc cannot be withdrawn.
Here is the official teaching from the Catechism:
2276 Those whose lives are diminished or weakened deserve special respect. Sick or handicapped persons should be helped to lead lives as normal as possible. 2277 Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.
Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded.
2278 Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of over-zealous treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.
2279 Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.
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