The case of euthanasia applied to a teenager in Belgium has revived the debate on “merciful killing”. For the first time, euthanasia concerned an 18-year-old person. To do so, was applied a law sanctioned by Brussels in 2014, which allows this power on two conditions: 1) the patient has to be capable of discernment at the moment when the decision is taken 2) the disease must cause “terrible physical suffering.” Little details are known about this case. It is unknown, for example, what was the teenager’s disease, nor – more generally – the circumstances in which the death took place. In any case, the Federal Commission of control and evaluation of euthanasia was informed about what happened only a few days after.
In a short time, the news went beyond national borders and reached also Italy, sparking the debate between political parties and doctors on a bioethical minefield.
This practice in our country is not only prohibited, but even considered a crime. As a result of the status quo, in the last few years, there has been an increase in the use of palliative care, that is, the administration of drugs that relieve pain in diseases in advanced or terminal stage. The society is split on this topic, giving different answers to the same question: can sufferance be a justification to anticipate death? The Church is categorical on that one point: life, according to it, must be protected from conception to its natural end. Pain, no matter how tragic it is, is part of human life (even Jesus suffered on the Cross), and that is how it must be addressed. Nevertheless, the last Eurispes report has shown that the number of the Italians who welcome “merciful killing” increased (albeit not in an exponential way), reaching 60%.
As it always happens in these cases, we should listen to the testimony of those who face suffering every day. Paul, for example, assists the sick in a famous hospital in Rome, working with the health ministry. “I meet so many people – he tells Interris.it – and sometimes they are so exhausted that they cannot even receive the Eucharist, or even without hope, constrained to resort to palliative care; But no one has ever asked to anticipate their death…” Euthanasia is seen as a slap to the many-sidedness of life, which consists of joys but also of pain. “A few years ago – Paul says – a good friend of mine had a week of life left and she was taken to a department created especially for the terminally ill. She asked to pray for her and she slowly recovered, so much so that she was released and was able to live for some more time.” In the hospital where he works,” in June 2016 an happened something extraordinary: the day of St. John the Baptist, a patient woke up after four days in a coma. She was an atheist, but a very honest person. She asked the chaplain and requested baptism. During the coma, she told she had had a “special encounter”. Shortly after, she died, but her children have also asked to be baptized. I wrote Pope Francis about this amazing event”.
These testimonials seem to have been confirmed by Dignitas, an Italian association that accompanies patients to assisted suicide. Forty percent of them, with the support of a doctor who assists them in the last moments of their rejection of treatment. Also Mina Welby, wife of Piergiorgio, who founded “Sos Euthanasia”, talked about these sudden change of mind in a group that informs and in some cases provides logistical and financial support to people who want to resort to “merciful killing.”
Very often, the will to live, ends up triumphing over desire to put an end to one’s existence. On the other hand, it is exactly when our last hour approaches that we discover the gift we have received. We must remember, in this regard, the words pronounced by John Paul II – the Pope who transformed sufferance into the characteristic trait of his ministry – in the letter Evangelium Vitae: “Whatever is opposed to life, any type of murder, genocide, abortion, or euthanasia … ruin human civilization and show contempt for the Creator (…). A big portion of the public opinion justify certain crimes against life in the name of individual freedom and rights, and on this basis they claim not only exemption from punishment, but even authorization by the State in order to practice them in absolute freedom.” Moreover, “medicine itself, which by its calling is directed to the defense and care of human life, through some of its branches, are more and more ready to accomplish such acts against the person.” Words that leave no doubt on the insolvency of choices that need to be remitted only to the will of the One who controls everything.