News

A selection of news relevant to EKD and of press releases of EKD's partner churches and church bodies. News used with permission from Ecumenical News International and other agencies.

Church Document Rejects Medically Assisted Death and Aid to Suicide

August 25, 2011

Vienna (epd) Medically assisted death and aid to suicide are, according to the Protestant churches in Europe, ethically unjustifiable. In a study published on Thursday in Vienna, the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE) says that death on request (euthanasia) violates deep-rooted moral beliefs. The association of 105 Protestant churches understands the desire on the part of the public for the legalization of euthanasia, but rejects this solution.

"Legalization would imply a kind of normalization and approval of euthanasia, turning it into an ordinary and established element of medical and clinical practice," the study argues. Rather than general legalization, a loophole could be exploited whereby rare and extreme cases would not be prosecuted.

August 25, 2011


Study on end of life questions urges intensified pain management

Vienna (epd) Killing on request (euthanasia) and assisted suicide are, according to the Protestant churches in Europe, ethically unjustifiable. In a study published on Thursday in Vienna, the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE) says that death on demand violates deep-rooted moral beliefs. The association of 105 Protestant churches understands the desire on the part of the public for the legalization of euthanasia, but rejects this solution.

Regulations on aid to death in Europe vary greatly from country to country. In Belgium, Luxembourg and The Netherlands, euthanasia is permitted under strict conditions. Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland. In Germany, rules of medical conduct prohibit suicide assistance. In other European countries, euthanasia and assisted suicide are forbidden.

"Legalization would imply a kind of normalization and approval of euthanasia, turning it into an ordinary and established element of medical and clinical practice," the study argues. Rather than general legalization, a loophole could be exploited whereby rare and extreme cases would not be prosecuted. Member churches are not bound by this document. The Evangelical Lutheran bishop of Austria Michael Bünker said that the orientation aid should be a standard reference in the interdisciplinary ecumenical dialogue.

From a Christian point of view, a positive right to suicide, assisted suicide and euthanasia is unjustifiable, said social ethicist Ulrich H. J. Körtner, one of the study's authors. Nonetheless, it is the role of the churches to accompany persons who feel they have no other way out. Spiritual counselors, especially, have the obligation to help persons to deal with the experience of meaningless suffering.

The Viennese professor of theology also said the right to life did not imply an obligation to live. "From neither a legal nor a Christian point of view have we the right to oblige others to live or to go on living." Protecting life does not justify, either ethically or legally, deeming patients incapable or incompetent. "Whoever believes he or she must protect a responsible citizen from him or herself, is ultimately fueling demands for the liberalization of euthanasia," Körtner warned.

The document recommends greater reliance on palliative medicine and care to alleviate pain. The possibilities for effective treatment and alleviation of physical pain and discomfort have improved considerably. In addition, the foregoing or withdrawal of therapy may be acceptable or even necessary. The study also states that Protestant churches are not prepared to reject as always wrong the discontinuation of nutrition to patients in persistent vegetative states.

The issue of death touches the deepest concern of human existence, said the president of the Swiss Bishops' Conference, Thomas Wipf. "Medical science cannot save human beings from death."

The Community of Protestant Churches in Europe is a fellowship of 105 Lutheran, Reformed and Methodist churches in 30 countries.

August 25, 2011




 


 

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