Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cardinal Martini & Euthanasia

This article from 'Chiesa' on Cardinal Martini, Archbishop of Milan on his support for euthanasia in certain circumstances.

Euthanasia – Martini writes – is “an act intended to cut life short, by directly causing death.” As such it is unacceptable.

But this is different from the case of aggressive therapies, or “the use of disproportionate medical procedures without any reasonable hope for a positive outcome.” By interrupting these – the cardinal writes, citing the Catechism – “one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted.”

And in deciding if a medical intervention should be interrupted – Martini continues – “the will of the sick person may not be overlooked, in that it is up to him – even from the legal point of view, with some very well-defined exceptions – to evaluate whether the treatment proposed to him, in such cases of exceptional gravity, is actually proportionate.”

Further on, Martini calls for the elaboration in this area of “a set of norms that on the one hand would permit the recognition of the possibility to refuse treatment – insofar as this is held by the patient to be disproportionate – and on the other would protect the doctor from eventual accusations like that of being an accessory to murder or providing help in suicide.”

This set of norms – the cardinal clarifies – need not imply “in any way the legalization of euthanasia.” The objective is “difficult, but not impossible: they tell me that, for example, the recent French law in this matter seems to have struck a balance that, if not perfect, is at least able to realize a sufficient consensus in a pluralistic society.”

This summarizes the position expressed by cardinal Martini in the January 21 article in “Il Sole 24 Ore.” But to understand this better, it is useful to look back at what he said on the same subject in the “Dialogue on life” that he published in “L’espresso” in April of 2006.

Is the Cardinal saying, if an individual decides that the medical treatment prescribed to save his life is disproportional, in his own thought process, that it is acceptable for that individual to deny the treatment?

Isn't that what Jehovah Witnesses do when they deny blood transfusions? Does that mean that I can stop taking the blood pressure medicine because it not only upsets my stomach but I think its 'disproportional'?

This could open up a can of worms. Could this lead to doctors eventually taking up that mantra and reserving that 'denial' decision for themselves on their patients?

And to think, this Cardinal was a leading candidate to take John Paul II place as the next Pope.

Thank you Holy Spirit for guiding the Church.

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