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Euthanasia 'could never be in a person’s best interest', Bishops warn MPs

‘Concerned’ Church leaders insist that ‘no one has the right to unilaterally decide to end one’s life because of severe suffering, disability, or for other inconvenient reasons’

Miriam Dalli
25 July 2016, 11:29am
ALS sufferer Joe Magro is the first private citizen ever to have his issue debated in committee on his own request
ALS sufferer Joe Magro is the first private citizen ever to have his issue debated in committee on his own request
The strong sense of autonomy human beings enjoy today does not give them “the right to unilaterally decide to end one’s life because of severe suffering, disability, or for other inconvenient reasons”, the Malta’s Church leaders have told members of parliament.

“The protection of life exceeds the right to liberty. The request of the patient to be given medical assistance that directly causes death, even when death is imminent, is not a question of freedom of choice,” Archbishop Charles Scicluna and Bishop Mario Grech told MPs in a joint letter.

“The autonomy enjoyed by every human being is not absolute or unlimited. The protection of human life, in particular when this is helpless and vulnerable, is an ethical and legal principle that goes beyond the principle of autonomy.”

A study conducted in 2013 among Maltese doctors found that over 90% of doctors say they are against euthanasia but 50% agree with hastening death by intensifying analgesia. 11.9% of the 356 doctors polled by researchers said they had received a request for euthanasia from patients.

If doctors were to accede to the patient’s request, the Bishops said this would cause them to betray their mission “by causing death rather than protecting human life”.

MPs sitting on the parliamentary committee for the family are currently discussing euthanasia, a subject placed on the agenda by ALS sufferer Joe Magro who has pleaded MPs to hear him out. Magro, 56, was diagnosed with ALS, a deadly neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, some 15 months ago. He has told MaltaToday that, unless euthanasia is introduced he is resolute in taking matters into his own hands.

“I do not want to be a burden on anyone. I do not want to be dependent on my family to eat, drink, wash or simply go to the bathroom. I will live as long as I can but once it gets to a point where I cannot live life in dignity I will commit suicide,” Magro has said.

His appeal to make his voice heard was finally granted when government whip and committee chair Godfrey Farrugia agreed to discuss the request made by the citizen.

There is manifest reluctance by all political parties, except Alternattiva Demokratika, to take a stand on euthanasia. The Green party has vehemently opposed the legislation of euthanasia.

The bishops, who in their letter avoided using the word euthanasia and referred to it as “killing” and “termination of human life” argued that a society which introduces euthanasia would be “eroding its moral and social fibre”.

“Every person has the right to treatment and society has the moral obligation to provide medical services to safeguard this right to life. The patient reserves the legal and the moral right to refuse disproportionate medical treatment, that is, treatment that does not offer any hope of benefit, involves exorbitant costs or inconvenience, and incurs severe pain and suffering,” the Bishops said.

“The decision to withhold or withdraw a medical treatment because of these reasons, while at the same time maintaining palliative care, is ethically different from the request of a patient to medical assistance to accelerate the process of death. While in the first instance, the intention is to refrain from any medical intervention out of respect for the natural process of death, in the second instance, the intention behind the medical intervention is to kill the patient.”

Arguing in favour of euthanasia, Joe Magro has insisted that he wants to live and “not simply exist”. The bishops said that while they understood “the psychological and physical suffering that the patient and relatives would be going through, the value of human life does not depend on sickness or health”.

“We believe that the medical assistance given to the patients for the abrupt termination of life could never be in his or her best interest.”


Miriam Dalli joined in 2010 and was assistant editor fr...