In a study published in December in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the scientists concluded that suffering in old age is not just due to physical limitations. Older people perceive their life as “unbearable” when existential crises and loneliness call into question the meaningfulness of their life.
The question of what is unbearable is difficult to answer in this “complex interplay of physical, psychological, and existential suffering that changes over time,” according to the authors.
Susanne Kummer, managing director of IMABE, said that the developments in Belgium and the Netherlands should give Austrian legislators food for thought.
Austria’s top court ruled in December that assisted suicide should no longer be a criminal offense, ordering the government to lift the prohibition in 2021.
Last month Portugal’s parliament backed a bill approving euthanasia. If the bill is signed into law, Portugal will become the fourth country in Europe to legalize the practice, alongside the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
Earlier this month, Catholic leaders and human rights advocates in Ireland expressed concern over a bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide.
In September 2020, the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation reaffirmed the Church’s perennial teaching on the sinfulness of euthanasia and assisted suicide.
“The image of a freely chosen, self-determined death is thrown into doubt when elderly people choose killing on demand or assisted suicide because they are socially isolated and increasingly anxious about their own frailty,” Kummer said.
Calling for “more realism” in the assisted suicide debate, she said: “Older people are increasingly being taught that growing old is a disease and that therapy for existential needs means killing. We are on the wrong side of the road.”