The Vatican's top official for health issues reiterated the Catholic Church's strong opposition to euthanasia in an interview published Thursday, but said it was in favor of allowing terminal patients to opt against aggressive therapeutic treatment.
Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan's comments came as an Italian Senate committee has been hearing arguments over proposed legislation to approve a living will, which allows people to decide in advance how they want to be treated if they become incapacitated in the last stages of a terminal illness.
Some politicians have viewed the measure with suspicion, warning that a living will could become a first step toward approving euthanasia. Euthanasia is currently illegal in Italy.
However, Cardinal Barragan spoke in favor of a living will, telling Turin daily "La Stampa" that the Vatican opposed "those useless and disproportionate treatments before the imminent death of the patient, which have as sole consequence prolonging the agony."
He clarified that hydrating and feeding a terminal patient could not be considered aggressive therapeutic treatment.
"In no way, however, are we in favor of the idea of euthanasia — meaning that action, or omission — destined to cause the death of the patient," the cardinal clarified.
The Senate committee began examining the bills last month amid a debate on euthanasia sparked when the Italian president received a plea from a man who can no longer walk, eat or breathe on his own because of muscular dystrophy. The man asked the president to legalize euthanasia so he could die.