Within a society in the process of secularization, what place for the voice of Christians in the fundamental debate on euthanasia? This is an irreversible attack on a taboo hitherto preserved and yet called into question: that of the unalterable and inviolable value of all human life.
Between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, medico-social action gradually developed on two axes, one Christian, the other Republican, to lead to a phenomenon of “social secularization”. These two cultures coexist peacefully within health structures, which have learned to combine their spiritual, ideological and scientific heritages (1).
I would like to honor the remarkable dedication of all the health personnel who invest themselves without counting the cost, not forgetting the hospital chaplains, ministers of religion, visitors and deacons who work in the shadows and discretion with those and those who suffer to bring them hope and compassion in the name of Christ.
Facilitate access to palliative care
The sanctity of life and the centrality of human dignity that permeate Christian ethics lead us, we Christians of all persuasions, to question ourselves alongside health professionals and elected officials of the Republic about this “ethical rupture that a “right to suicide” would provoke in France. Among evangelicals, we believe that “any inclusion of euthanasia or assisted suicide in the law would lead to a questioning of the principle of solidarity and the relationship with society, making the situation of the most vulnerable even more fragile”.
I don’t think that a society, which in the name of “freedom” would grant its citizens the right to self-suppression, would be more fraternal and egalitarian for that. Wouldn’t it be preferable, first of all, to facilitate access to palliative care for those who need it because of geographical inequality before considering changing the law?
We see that, both caregivers and patients, the quality of care is subject to constant pressure linked to the requirement of the concept that “health should be profitable”. I fear that euthanasia will replace palliative care in the short term, on the pretext that it is more economical for society…
Risk of deviations
I want to trust the ethics of my contemporaries, but fear at the same time that a form of morbid economic logic crosses the minds of certain financial health groups who would benefit from seeing their patients suffering from long and costly illnesses make the choice to leave.
The risk of abuses is real, because, by unleashing the dark side of the human soul, some might be tempted to use this new law as an “inheritance accelerator”, when a parent with property is slow to leave the land of the living… “The progress of a society, as the history of the 20th century has taught us, is measured today by its capacityé to develop solidarity, by protecting and surrounding the weakest and not to facilitate their disappearance”, recalls Pierre Mazeaud, former President of the Constitutional Council and Honorary President of the National Consultative Ethics Committee.
“Charges for society”
In my experience as a “field pastor”, I have regularly heard sick or very old people who are socially isolated say that they thought they had become a form of “burden on society”, and that the thought of leaving to “leave room for the healthy dwelt in them. Benevolence, love, psychological and spiritual support often drive these people away from any desire for suicide or early death. Let’s not give in to a form of “utilitarianism” that does not say its name.
Who will decide on an “end of life” for people with intellectual disabilities who have impaired discernment and decision-making power? With all the respect and admiration I have for this profession, healthcare executives risk finding themselves more frequently in the delicate position of “magistrates” deciding the final fate of the people entrusted to them…
Solve financial equations
Finally, faced with the cost of building health facilities and the lack of beds, will some of our descendants who have forgotten the debates we are currently carrying on not be tempted to use this law to settle financial equations? This radical reform of the care of end-of-life patients would no longer be exclusively intended to support, accompany, treat or relieve, but could also be perceived as rather causing death… ” I will not give poison to anyone if asked, nor initiate such a suggestion. », says the Hippocratic oath.
It is in these times of crisis, suffering and doubt that we need each other the most. The future of what makes the richness and beauty of our human society is in our hands. Filled with compassion and attentive to the suffering of our fellow human beings, vigilant concerning the risks of excesses, my dream is that we can together build a more united and more loving society, from the beginning of life to the final moments.