As Ireland’s leaders are weighing the legality of euthanasia, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference is cautioning against the practice of ending one’s life before nature has completed its course.
The bishops’ letter began by acknowledging that there are many families in Ireland with loved ones who are grappling with terminal illness. They noted that the theme of the 2024 annual Day of Life, celebrated in June, will focus on this issue under the theme of “Care at the End of Life.“
The bishops explained that while accompanying family members through “the valley of darkness” is a challenging time, it is also a privileged time:
“Faced with the reality of their own mortality, many people, young and old, discover within themselves hidden reserves of faith, hope, and love, which can often be an inspiration to those who accompany them. In that privileged time, there is an opportunity to express gratitude and to heal wounded relationships.”
The bishops next turned to the recent legislative efforts by some representatives to cement the practice into law. They wrote that while assisted suicide is presented as a means of “respecting the autonomy of a person,” it is actually “an abdication of the responsibility of society to support people who are terminally ill and their families.” The bishops urged that the final days and weeks of life should be lived as fully and richly as possible.
The letter went on to warn that other countries that have legalized euthanasia have quickly extended the ability to end one’s life to some of the most vulnerable portions of the population:
“From our knowledge of what has happened in other jurisdictions, it is also clear to us that the availability of assisted suicide is very quickly extended to include people with all kinds of life-limiting conditions, including intellectual disability, whose continued existence is perceived to be a burden on society.”
The bishops concluded their letter with an appeal to legislators to respect the integrity of healthcare and the dignity of human life:
“We take this opportunity to affirm the generosity and dedication of healthcare professionals, including chaplains, in caring for people who are terminally ill. The care they provide bears witness to the healing that is possible even when there is no longer any possibility of a ‘cure.’ We appeal, in the strongest possible terms, to all our legislators, who are entrusted with the care of the common good, to respect the integrity of healthcare as a service to life from conception until natural death.”