Why do Catholics Oppose Euthanasia *


At the end of Moses' life, God gave final instructions through him to the people of Israel. He said in part: "Learn then that I, I alone, am God, and there is no god beside me. It is I who bring both death and life" (Dt 32:39).


Life and death are in the hands of God. He is our creator "who gives to everyone life and breath and everything" (Acts 17:25). Our days are appointed to us by him from the very beginning (see Ps 139:16).


To take life and death into our own hands, then, through or assisting someone in suicide (euthanasia), is to "play God." But that role is not ours to play. For this reason, the Church opposes the active, direct killing even of those who desire to end their lives.


Why, some may ask, shouldn't we be allowed to do as we wish with the life that is ours? Because it is ultimately not ours at all. We are stewards, not owners, of the life our Creator has entrusted to us. We have no "right to die," because our life is not ours to dispose of. (See also "Why do Catholics believe that Abortion and Embryonic Stem Cell Research Wrong?").


This is true twice over for the Christian, to whom God has given a new life through Jesus Christ. As St. Paul says: "Do you not know that... you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price" (1 Cor 6:19-20).


Catholic teaching recognizes that there are times when a life that is not innocent must be taken: for example, in self-defense; within the duties of law enforcement work, to protect threatened innocents; or in justly waged war. (See "Why do Catholics Oppose the Death Penalty?" and "Why do Catholics believe in a Just War?") But apart from these circumstances, or other considerations such as insanity on the part of the killer, the deliberate taking of an innocent human life is murder, even when the killing is self-inflicted.


The Church teaches, and demonstrates in her many health care institutions, that sufficient palliative (pain-relieving) care can provide a viable moral alternative to suicide. At the same time, avoiding or discontinuing overzealous or dangerous medical procedures can be legitimate when the intention is not to cause death, but merely to accept the inability to impede it.


Other related scriptures: Gn 2:7; Ex 23:7; Jb 12:10; 33:4; Mt 5:21; Gal 2:20


Catechism of the Catholic Church: 2261-2269; 2276-2283; 2320; 2324-2325.


*Quoted from The New Catholic Answer Bible. Wichita, Kansas, Fireside Catholic Publishing, 2005. www.firesidecatholic.com


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