The Queensland parliamentary inquiry into aged care, end-of-life and palliative care, and voluntary assisted dying prompts reflection on the kind of society we want to be, writes Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge. Source: The Australian.
And it should be self-evident from the outset that we should want to be a society that promotes and supports people’s dignity and autonomy as far as possible as they age and approach the end of life.
If we are not doing this, then we need to fix it. On the issue of so-called voluntary assisted dying, however, our reflection needs to be very deep and very careful. It cannot simply be about claiming that this would respect free choice or end suffering. Both human freedom and human suffering are deeply significant experiences.
So, as a society, we need to tread lightly and carefully in making laws to ensure that our laws do not undermine freedom and dignity under the illusion that we are supporting them; we need to be careful not to cause more suffering, under the impression we are ending it.
First, however, it is worth being clear about what it is that we are considering. We are not talking about demanding that life be prolonged at all costs. Insisting that there is an obligation to preserve life at all costs is not consistent with a Catholic ethic. Life is a good, but it is neither absolute nor the greatest good. Dying is part of life, and the ultimate good is God. The Catholic tradition has developed several important moral distinctions to help us to navigate this space over its history.
- A person can voluntarily stop treatment for a terminal illness that is judged to be overly burdensome or disproportionate.
- Pain and suffering can be relieved, even if the medication intentionally administered for this purpose could have the foreseeable effect of hastening death.
- A person, together with their families and loved ones, should discuss their wishes in terms of care and their desire for potential life-prolonging interventions should they become incompetent, and they can document this in the form of an advanced care plan.
None of the above constitutes so-called voluntary assisted dying, physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia, and each of them is perfectly compatible with the Catholic faith. What’s more, all of these scenarios should fit comfortably within the spectrum of what should be provided in a properly funded palliative care system.
There are more loving alternatives to euthanasia (The Australian)