Euthanasia a grave risk: Archbishop

Catholic Health Australia CEO Suzanne Greenwood told a Western Australian inquiry that high quality palliative and end of life care is the best option to allow freedom of choice, comfort, dignity and respect as a person nears the end of life, not just for the individual, but also for the family and community that surrounds them. Picture supplied.

ARCHBISHOP Christopher Prowse welcomed the opportunity to speak out against euthanasia last month warning that supporting assisted suicide would be a fundamental mistake.

Appearing before the Legislative Assembly’s Inquiry into End of Life Choices in the ACT, the Archbishop described assisted suicide as de-humanising and a grave risk.

He spoke of euthanasia as a lonely policy only an atomised society would think about and recounted stories from his 38 years of priesthood of being present at good deaths.

His submission highlighted the pressure that euthanasia, would place on vulnerable people.

“If euthanasia were allowed, the concern is that vulnerable people would be overwhelmed by these pressures rather than seeking help,” he said.

“Just to speak of euthanasia as a treatment option would send a very strong signal to people that their life is of no great consequence and that their remaining days have no value.”

Archbishop Prowse gave several examples about the dangers of euthanasia including the misdiagnosis of illnesses such as depression which can become part of a downward spiral in ethical standards.

“Depression is hard to diagnose and is often misinterpreted, sometimes seen as a rational response to difficult circumstances,” he said.

He also said the acceptance of euthanasia could not be limited because once accepted in some cases, there is a logical progression to expand the boundaries.

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“In those overseas jurisdictions where euthanasia is permitted, the boundaries have expanded over the years to include for example, brothers who were deaf and found they would soon be blind.”

The Archbishop’s appearance before the Assembly committee comes just months after Catholic Health Australia CEO, Suzanne Greenwood, presented to a Western Australian inquiry into end of life choices.

Ms Greenwood said high quality palliative and end of life care is the best option to allow freedom of choice, comfort, dignity and respect as a person nears the end of life, not just for the individual, but also for the family and community that surrounds them.

“CHA’s view is that it is never permissible to purposefully end an individual’s life through euthanasia or assisted suicide because we believe it compromises the inherent value of the person,” she said.

“[It] erodes trust in the medical profession who must care for individuals at all points in their journey.”

She said palliative care, although chronically underfunded, addresses the physical, psychological, spiritual, and social needs of an individual nearing end of life.

“It provides ongoing supports to the family surrounding them,” she said.

“Clinicians assist patients and their family in the progression of their condition to improve quality of life, relieve suffering, co-ordinate symptom relief; and to provide support for their comfort and wellbeing, until their natural death.”

Ms Greenwood said CHA members are committed to providing the best possible, evidence based compassionate care to all members of society.

“Our members have always valued the delivery of person-centred care that is founded in a respect for human dignity and life.”

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Fr Bill Kennedy, of the Archdiocese, visits Palliative Care patients every day.

“I have been privileged to attend Clare Holland House each day since it opened in,” he said.

“I’m aware of the appreciation of the patients through my visits to them caring for their spiritual needs.”

For more information about Clare Holland House call (02) 6273 0336 or go online to https://www.calvarycare.org.au/public-hospital-bruce/services-and-clinics/clare-holland-house/ or https://www.pallcareact.org.au/clare-holland-house/

Catholic Health Australia is based in Canberra and represents Australia’s largest non-government grouping of hospitals, aged and community care services, providing approximately 10 per cent of hospital and aged care services in the country, including around 30 per cent of private hospital care as well as approximately five per cent of public hospital care.

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