“It would also be naïve to believe that, once a bill such as Baroness Meacher’s is made law, demands for assisted suicide would simply be limited to those who are terminally ill,” he said.
“If the purpose of assisted dying is to alleviate suffering, then why should it be limited to the terminally ill with only six months to live?”
“Campaigners will inevitably argue that it should also be allowed for those who have years of suffering ahead of them, due to chronic illness or disability.”
He said that the experience of Canada showed how rapidly “supposed safeguards” could be swept away, extending assisted suicide far beyond the terminally ill.
On March 17, the Canadian Senate approved Bill C-7, which expanded the eligibility for “Medical Assistance in Dying.”
The legislation stripped the requirement that people seeking assisted suicide must have a “reasonably foreseeable” death, and also allowed people to opt for assisted suicide with mental illness as a sole underlying condition.
In September 2020, the Vatican’s doctrinal congregation reaffirmed the Church’s perennial teaching on the sinfulness of euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Since then, supporters of the practices have made gains in several European countries.
Austria’s top court ruled in December 2020 that assisted suicide should no longer be a criminal offense.
In February this year, Portugal’s parliament backed a bill approving euthanasia. But President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa vetoed the legislation.
Also in February, Catholic leaders and human rights advocates expressed concern over a bill seeking to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Ireland. But the Dying with Dignity Bill failed to progress.
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Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court ruled in February that a provision in the German Criminal Code criminalizing commercial assisted suicide was unconstitutional.
In March, Spain’s legislature passed a law legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide, making Spain the fourth country in Europe to approve the practices, after the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
Pope Francis was asked to comment on the move in Spain in an interview with the Spanish radio station COPE aired on Sept. 1.
“In Italy, the average age is 47 years old. In Spain, I think it is older. That is to say, the pyramid has been inverted. It is the demographic winter at birth, in which there are more cases of abortion,” he said.
“The demographic culture is in loss because we look at the profit. It looks to the one in front... and sometimes using the idea of compassion: ‘that this person may not suffer in the case of…’ What the Church asks is to help people to die with dignity. This has always been done.”
Bishop McKinney urged Catholics to write to members of the House of Commons, the lower house of Parliament, and the House of Lords, expressing their opposition to the bill.