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As Spain legalizes assisted suicide, Catholic bishops call for protecting life

Spain, euthanasia, assisted suicide

As Spain becomes the fifth nation in Europe to allow assisted suicide, Catholic Spanish bishops are calling for conscientious protections as well as a “strong movement” to protect life.

“Causing death can never provide a solution to problems of suffering,” said Bishop Luis Arguello, secretary-general and spokesman of the Bishops Conference of Spain. “The conscientious objection of health workers not wishing to participate in this process must also be respected, while everyone entering a medical facility must be assured this is a place where personal care is exercised.”

In December 2020, Spain’s Parliament voted in favor of legalizing euthanasia. Then in March 2021, the Spanish Senate approved the Organic Law Regulating Euthanasia, which went into effect in June. The law allows any Spanish citizen facing a chronic and incurable illness to be euthanized within 40 days of a certified and repeated request, according to The Tablet. This essentially sends the message to people living with chronic illness or disability that they are better off dead, and as Bishop Arguello said, will put “added pressure” on patients who feel as though they are “a burden to their families.”

Disturbingly, the law also allows a family member or doctor to sign a euthanasia petition when a patient is considered incapacitated.

Multiple studies show that people who seek assisted suicide do so not because they want a so-called “dignified” death, but because they are dealing with depression and hopelessness, and fear being a burden to their loved ones. Results from a study published in the journal “Age and Ageing” revealed that 60% of those who said they wished to die also had symptoms of depression. Seventy-five percent of them reported feeling lonely. However, of those who expressed a desire to die, that desire was temporary, and within two years, 72% said they no longer wanted to die. Their feelings of loneliness and depression also improved, suggesting a close connection between loneliness and the wish to access assisted suicide.

READ: Man assists in wife’s suicide on video, reigniting Spain’s euthanasia debate

Additionally, many people who are told they have a terminal illness and qualify for assisted suicide can actually survive for many years. Jeanette Hall was 55 when she was told she had terminal cancer and just six months to live. She thought she wanted assisted suicide, but her doctor convinced her not to do it. She has since lived for more than 20 years with treatment.

A second Spanish bishop, José Munilla, said that there is a campaign to get Catholics to carry living will letters that request doctors offer “appropriate care to alleviate suffering” instead of being offered euthanasia. “Our wish to receive help in the last moments of life will be included in this, along with the presence of a priest to administer the sacraments,” Bishop Munilla said. “Beyond stating our position in favor of palliative care and against euthanasia, this living will offers great help in facilitating the patient’s spiritual accompaniment.”

In addition to the bishops, Catholic pro-life groups including National Lares Federation, Partido Popular, Vox, and Spain’s Associations for Life, Freedom and Dignity, also spoke out against the law. National Lares Federation said the law was a “disregard for human dignity.”

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