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Catholics in India affirm church's euthanasia stance

Move by the government to enact a law legalizing 'passive euthanasia' is against the dignity of life, they say

Ritu Sharma, New Delhi

Ritu Sharma, New Delhi

Updated: May 17, 2016 10:21 AM GMT
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Catholics in India affirm church's euthanasia stance

Hospitals in India need to have an ethics committee that can be consulted by family members while taking decisions on euthanasia, says Father Mathew Perumpil, secretary for the Indian Catholic bishops’ conference’s office of health (ucan file photo) 

Officials from the Indian bishops’ health office are against the Indian government's plans to enact a law legalizing "passive euthanasia."

"If the government legalizes passive euthanasia, people would start indulging in it actively. That would be against the dignity of life," said Father Mathew Perumpil, secretary for the Indian Catholic bishops' conference's office of health.

Passive euthanasia occurs when the patient dies because medical professionals either stop doing or don't do something necessary to keep the patient alive.

"We need a more compassionate approach than a legal approach," Father Perumpil told ucanews.com.

The Indian government’s ministry of health and family welfare has prepared a draft bill Terminally Ill Patients (Protection of Patients and Medical Practitioners) and invited the public for suggestions.

The May 9 request on its website on whether to make it a law or not is open for public debate until next month.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable." It also says that "intentional euthanasia," whatever its form or motive, is murder.

Father Frederick D’Souza, executive director of Caritas India, told ucanews.com that passive euthanasia would be equal to killing a person who is not in a position to give consent.

"Nobody has the right to decide on his or her behalf (as to) when the patient should die," he added.

There is a high possibility of a misuse of such a law, said the priest from the Indian catholic bishop's social service agency.

"People will come up with cooked up stories declaring their family members are in a critical state or in coma," Father D'Souza said.

Father Perumpil said euthanasia is not acceptable to the Catholic Church as "there is absolute need to protect life by all means."

Moreover, hospitals in India need to have an ethics committee that can be consulted by family members while taking such decisions, he said.

The debate for passive euthanasia has been going on for sometime in India. The Supreme Court in its 2011 judgment laid down guidelines to process passive euthanasia on a case-by-case basis until Parliament legislates on the subject.

K.K. Aggarwal, secretary general of Indian Medical Association, told ucanews.com that what India lacks is the advance directive procedure from patients to write down whether to take or not take the required treatment if he or she is dying.

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