Vatican City, Sep 22, 2020 / 09:00 am
Palliative care for the dying is important, but medical interventions are not enough; Catholics have a responsibility to be with the suffering and to communicate the hope of Christ, a new Vatican document on euthanasia said Tuesday.
While palliative care is “essential and invaluable,” it is not enough, a letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said.
“Palliative care cannot provide a fundamental answer to suffering or eradicate it from people’s lives,” the congregation said. “To claim otherwise is to generate a false hope, and cause even greater despair in the midst of suffering.”
“Medical science can understand physical pain better and can deploy the best technical resources to treat it. But terminal illness causes a profound suffering in the sick person, who seeks a level of care beyond the purely technical,” it continued.
“Palliative care in itself is not enough unless there is someone who ‘remains’ at the bedside of the sick to bear witness to their unique and unrepeatable value. Pain is existentially bearable only where there is hope.”
The CDF presented the 45-page letter, Samaritanus bonus: on the Care of Persons in the Critical and Terminal Phases of Life, at a press conference Sept. 22. It was approved by Pope Francis on June 25 and signed by CDF prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria and secretary Archbishop Giacomo Morandi.
The letter reaffirmed Catholic teaching on a range of end-of-life issues, underlining the moral impermissability of euthanasia and assisted suicide, and recalling the obligation of Catholics to accompany the sick and dying through prayer, physical presence, and the sacraments.
The Vatican document also pointed out what it described as cultural obstacles obscuring the intrinsic value of every human life: the notion of “dignified death” as measured by a person’s so-called “quality of life,” a false understanding of compassion, and an individualism which sees the other as a limitation or threat to one’s freedom.