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The Catholic Church

From the earliest times, Christ’s followers have set themselves apart by their care of the vulnerable (Acts 4:34). Indeed, Christ said, “By this love you have for one another; everyone will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:35). Just as the early Christians were, we too, are called to accompany and care for those who are suffering.

On 19 June 2019, the Victorian Assisted Dying Act comes into effect. This law legalises euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. Despite what the law may say, our Christian tradition affirms that every life, including those of the sick and suffering, is sacred. For us, euthanasia or physician assisted suicide are never part of end of life care.

In Victoria, the Catholic Church operates 26 hospitals along with 89 aged care, hospice and palliative care facilities. In doing so, we follow Jesus’ call to comfort the sick and the duty to look after those in need.

Catholics believe that the human person is a unity of body, mind and soul. For this reason, health care should not focus solely on the body (with symptom control), but also provide emotional and spiritual support. Catholic health services apply this holistic understanding by uniting medical expertise with pastoral and spiritual care. This is especially true for palliative care, where the medical focus shifts from cure to comfort.

Catholics also recognise that human beings live, interact and die in the context of a community. This recognition impacts on end of life care in two ways. First, best practice care will attempt to surround the patient with a supportive community at the end of life.  Second, it is understood the death of a person does not only affect the individual, but also family, friends, health care providers and the wider community. Catholic health care is “communitarian”: we see the patient in the context of community rather than in an “individualistic” mode which could treat people as an isolated or detached unit.
 
With euthanasia and assisted suicide now legal in Victoria, all of us have a role to play in caring for those suffering as well as becoming conscientious objectors by refusing to participate. 
 
Christians in Victoria, as in any other time of history, are now challenged to show a different approach to death and the dying, one which accompanies every person as they are dying and allows them to love and to be loved to the very end. We cannot cooperate with the facilitation of suicide, even when it seems motivated by empathy or kindness.  
 

Resources

When Life is Ending

Real love, care & compassion