Spain's bishops condemned a proposed “death with dignity law” and declared that the bill in its current form must be abolished, modified or rejected.
“Laws that tolerate or even regulate violations of the right to life are gravely unjust and must not be obeyed. Moreover, these laws call into question the legitimacy of those public officials who draft and approve them. They must be denounced and abolished, modified or, in this case, rejected, with every democratic means available,” the Spanish bishops’ conference said in a statement published June 27.
The secretary general and spokesman for the Spanish bishops, Bishop Juan Antonio Martinez Camino spoke during a press conference and called the measure unjust. He rejected the argument that the Church is acting against democracy. She is “exercising it precisely in a fundamental way,” he said, adding that a law of “such transcendence” should not be rushed to a vote.
In their statement, the bishops demanded that the right to conscientious objection be recognized and guaranteed for health care professionals involved in “situations that entail legal attacks on human life.” They also said the “lex artis” should be upheld, which ensures that good medical practices keep the absolute personal autonomy of the terminally ill patient in check.
While they praised the measure for attempting to “protect the dignity of the person at the end of life without decriminalizing euthanasia,” the bishops said it fails to do so because “it leaves the door open to the legalization of euthanistic conduct.”
“An understanding of the autonomy of the person as practically absolute, and the weight that is given to such autonomy in the development of the law, ends up distorting the stated intention and exceeding the proposed limit of not leaving any room for euthanasia,” they said.
The bishops also noted that the proposed law employs a reductive definition of the concept of euthanasia, “which leaves the door open to certain voluntary omissions that can cause death or directly accelerate it.”
Among the “euthanistic” practices that would be legalized by the measure include the improper use of sedation, which ought to be applied according to the sound judgment of doctors and not the will of the patient, the bishops continued. The measure erroneously treats this matter as a “right” of the patient, they added.
The bishops went on to note that the law could be used to support a decision to withdraw treatment or deny patients basic care such as food and hydration.
The measure also makes no mention of religious freedom, they said, and instead formulates “a new right to accompaniment which includes spiritual or religious counsel that it says patients have a right to receive if they obtain it.”
Nevertheless, the bishops pointed out that the second draft of the measure is an improvement on the first, which “did not even mention that patients had a right to spiritual assistance.” The latest draft at least acknowledges that right, they said.
Bishop Martinez Camino warned that the measure also does not mention the international accords or agreements Spain has signed with the Catholic Church and with other religious confessions.