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Spain’s bishops seek conscience option in new euthanasia law


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John Burger - published on 07/06/21 - updated on 07/06/21

Country becomes fifth in Europe to allow physician-assisted suicide.

Now that Spain has become the fifth European nation to legalize physician-assisted suicide, the country’s Catholic bishops have called for a “strong movement” to protect human life.

They also called for a provision allowing conscientious objectors to the new law to exercise their conscience and opt out of any participation in it. 

“Causing death can never provide a solution to problems of suffering. We now need a strong movement for protecting life,” said Bishop Luis Arguello, secretary-general and spokesman of the Bishops Conference of Spain. “The conscientious objection of health workers not wishing to participate in this process must also be respected, while everyone entering a medical facility must be assured this is a place where personal care is exercised.”

In June, the Organic Law Regulating Euthanasia came into force. The law, which the Spanish Senate approved in March, allows a family member or doctor to sign a euthanasia petition when a patient is incapacitated.

Bishop Arguello said at a press briefing that the new law would put “added pressure” on patients “considering themselves a burden to their families.”

Another bishop, José Munilla of San Sebastian, added that there is a longstanding campaign to get Catholics to carry letters requesting “appropriate care to alleviate suffering” and not be subjected to euthanasia. The letter asks that the person not be kept alive with “disproportionate treatments” in an “irretrievable, critical situation.” 

“Our wish to receive help in the last moments of life will be included in this, along with the presence of a priest to administer the sacraments,” Bishop Munilla told Spain’s Catholic Radio Maria. “Beyond stating our position in favor of palliative care and against euthanasia, this living will offers great help in facilitating the patient’s spiritual accompaniment.”

The Tablet reported that other Catholic groups, pro-life organizations and conservative political parties have spoken out about the law’s dangers.

“In a declaration last week, the country’s Catholic medical organizations, including the National Lares Federation, vowed to resist the law as a ‘disregard for human dignity,’ while the right-wing Partido Popular and Vox parties said they would continue seeking constitutional arbitration against it. Spain’s Associations for Life, Freedom and Dignity, incorporating 140 civil society groups, said they were also seeking support for counter-legislation to extend palliative care,” the Tablet wrote.

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