21 January 2021, The Tablet

Bishops step up efforts against euthanasia

Bishops step up efforts against euthanasia

Anti-euthanasia activists protest outside Congress of Deputies in Madrid.
Oscar Gonzalez/PA

The Spanish Bishops’ Conference has circulated a draft living will and other guidelines to protect citizens against being involuntarily killed under a government-backed euthanasia law. 

“This proposed law says euthanasia cannot be applied if the person has previously signed a document with instructions, a living will, advance directives or equivalent legally recognised documents,” the conference said in a website message. 

“Given the possible approval of the euthanasia law, it is necessary to prevent its abusive application when informed consent cannot be expressed. We are encouraging the faithful to sign such a document to avoid violating the dignity and freedom of disabled people, and to help humanise the death process through material and spiritual assistance.” 

The message was accompanied by a draft patient's letter, asking not to be kept alive with “disproportionate treatments” in an “irretrievable, critical situation”, but also to be allowed “appropriate care to alleviate suffering”, rather than subjected to euthanasia.

The Conference said the advance directive would apply in cases where a patient could not decide on his own health due to disability, illness, accident or old age, and would also assert the right to spiritual care, including “the consolation of Christian faith through the sacraments”.

The Organic Law Regulating Euthanasia, tabled by premier Pedro Sanchez's Socialist party and its far-left Unidas Podemos coalition partner, was passed on 17 December in the lower house of Spain's Cortes parliament, and will make the country Europe's sixth to allow active euthanasia if given final senate approval.

The measure, condemned in a pre-Christmas Bishops Conference statement, is one of several points of rupture with the Catholic Church, nominally comprising two-thirds of the population of 47 million, which is also in conflict with the Sanchez government over legislation to liberalise abortion and secularise education. 

In a weekend letter, Spain's primate, Archbishop Francisco Cerro Chaves of Toledo, said the Education Law, downgrading religious teaching and curbing the independence of Christian schools, reflected “ideological interests” rather than “the true purpose of education”, adding that attempts to control education had been “repeated in Spain for decades”. 

“Since the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, almost all governments have changed the education law – it seems the current rulers are obstinately repeating the same errors,” Archbishop Cerro Chaves told Catholics. “It is truly amazing that those who call themselves democrats and cry out for freedom, become totalitarian when it comes to national education.” 

More than 1.9 million people have signed a petition against the Celaa Law, popularly named after Spain's Education Minister and set to enter into force in March, which is also being opposed by Mas Plurales, a coalition of family and teacher groups, including Escuelas Catolicas, grouping more than 2500 Catholic schools. 

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