Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Pontifical Academy for Life President must resign. Italy's assisted suicide bill must be defeated.

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In the past I have stayed out of Church politics but this situation requires a response.

I am very concerned with the recent comments by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, relating to the 2019 Italian assisted suicide Constitutional Court decision and the proposed Italian assisted suicide legislation.

In September 2019, the Italian Constitutional Court opened the door to assisted suicide in the assisted suicide case of Fabiano Antoniani, known as DJ Fabo, a music producer and motocross driver who became disabled in a 2014 traffic accident. In February 2017, Marco Cappato, a leader with the Luca Coscioni Assisted Suicide Association brought Antoniani to Switzerland where he died at an assisted suicide clinic.

The 2019 Italian Constitutional Court decision, which concerned the Antoniani death, appeared to limit assisted suicide to people being kept alive on life-support but further reading indicated that the decision was much wider. An article published in the Guardian on September 25, 2019 stated:
The court said that a patient’s condition must be “causing physical and psychological suffering that he or she considers intolerable”.
The language “causing physical and psychological suffering that he or she considers intolerable” is based on subjective criteria and allows assisted suicide to a wide group of people. I have commented on the language of the decision and expressed concern that the decision devalued the lives of people with disabilities

Further to that, in November 2021 an ethics committee in the central Italian region of Marche Italy approved the first assisted suicide death, a man with quadriplegia known as Mario. At that time I stated that I was concerned that the Italian assisted suicide court decisions all focused on people with disabilities.

On April 19, 2023; Archbishop Paglia, in speaking at the Perugia Journalist Festival on the theme: The Last Journey (towards the end of Life) stated:

…it cannot be excluded that in our society a legal mediation is feasible which allows assisted suicide in the conditions specified by the Constitutional Court's Judgment 242/2019: the person must be "kept alive by life support treatments and affected from an irreversible pathology, a source of physical or psychological suffering that she deems intolerable, but fully capable of making free and informed decisions". The bill approved by the Chamber of Deputies (but not by the Senate) basically went along this line. Personally I would not practice assisted suicide, but I understand that legal mediation can constitute the greatest common good that is concretely possible in the conditions in which we find ourselves.
Paglia explained in his intervention that the Catholic Church opposes assisted suicide but the language of the court decision and the assisted suicide bill, that has already passed in the Chamber of Deputies, but not in the Italian Senate, might work as a legal answer.

In response to Paglia, I ask that questions, what is assisted suicide and can there ever be a law permitting assisted suicide that is considered morally permissible?

The answer to this lies in the fundamental issue of what assisted suicide is.

Assisted suicide is an act whereby one or more persons, usually medical practitioners, directly assist in the death of another person by intentionally providing the means to cause death. In other words, where assisted suicide is legal, the medical practitioner is directly involved with causing the death of another person. It is not accidental and it is not based on a "double effect."

Assisted suicide is not acceptable under any circumstance based on the commandment, thou shall not kill. Based on the act, assisted suicide can never be considered morally permissible.

On April 24, the Vatican published a clarification concerning the comments by Archbishop Paglia. The clarification states:
In his address last week, Archbishop Paglia explained that it is important that assisted suicide remain a crime in Italian law, which the Constitutional Court sentence recognizes. However, because the Court has asked Parliament to legislate concerning the issue, the Archbishop gave his opinion that a “legislative initiative” along the lines proposed by the Senate – maintaining medically-assisted suicide as a crime while de-penalizing it in certain circumstances – might be a possible solution to the legal question.

The statement from the PAV insists that any legal compromise would in no way involve a change in the moral stance towards assisted suicide.

The clarification misses the point. Archbishop Paglia created confusion when he suggested that the 2019 Italian Constitutional Court decision and the Chamber of Deputies legislation may be an acceptable legal solution. These comments suggest that some assisted suicide deaths may be acceptable.

Archbishop Paglia does make several excellent remarks in his intervention. He spoke about the interdependence of the human person, the cultural pressure that may be felt by a dying person, the expansion of euthanasia in other jurisdictions, the abuse of euthanasia, and the need for people to be with others as they are dying. Nonetheless, the confusion Archbishop Paglia has sown is greater than the good that he expressed.

I am also concerned because the 2019 Italian Constitutional court decision and the language of the Chamber of Deputies bill infer that assisting the suicide of a disabled person can be acceptable. The 2019 court decision was based on the assisted suicide death of a disabled man and the language of the decision is discriminatory towards people with disabilities.

Further to that, the legislation states that assisted suicide can be approved when the person’s condition is “causing physical and psychological suffering that he or she considers intolerable.” These are subjective criteria that are based on a person's claim that their suffering is intolerable. No one can confirm or deny such a claim.

Paglia acknowledged that the law would allow assisted suicide for people with physical or psychological suffering, but he doesn't seem to recognize that in all jurisdictions that have legalized assisted suicide based on physical or psychological suffering this subjective criteria has led to the massive expansions of the law.

Based on his comments and the weak clarification attempt, I and those who agree to attach their name to this statement, call on Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia to resign as the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Assisted suicide is the direct and intentional assisting in a suicide death. It is fundamental that the Pontifical Academy for Life effectively expresses its opposition to killing people.

To add your name to this statement, email Alex Schadenberg at: alex@epcc.ca with your full name, address and position.


Anonymous said...

I agree that the statement made by this Church official opens the door to assisted suicide legislation expansion. As well it confuses the common person in making life and death decisions for themselves and others. More clarifications, repeated publicly are needed, though the harm has been done. In Prayer, Marilyn Baker

Dr Hanna Kump said...

I'm agree with you.
If the Church does not defend the live who will do that in our transhumanist world .

Unknown said...

Yes I agree that the pontifical academy for Life President should resign!
We already have so much confusion, There is no grey area. There is much that can be done to keep a suffering person comfortable. It is not for us to choose when a person dies. That is God.s territory. Unfortunately many are taking God's place. In Prayer
Mary Spiteri

Anonymous said...

I’m not clear on one point. Do Italians consider withdrawal of life support the same as assisted suicide?

Alex Schadenberg said...

Italians do not consider withdrawal of life support as the same as assisted suicide.
Assisted suicide is the assisting of a suicide by lethal drugs.

Jack K said...

The Archbishops role is to defend church doctrine, not redefine it. As such his resignation should be automatic.

Association of Transparency and Anti corruption said...

Opinions differ from person to person. It require to be approached from the position of people who are suffering from extreme pain with no hope of return to normal life. Perhaps the term "assisted suicide " may not fit aptly. Humane approach is most needed in this issue.

Votefortruth said...

No one wants to die . Even the most suffering person whether mentally or physically only wants to recover and do not want to die.Therefore, assisted suicide only indicates the level of arrogance of the survivors , who seem to think that they can take the law of nature for granted.

The Hindu scriptures talk about rebirth and fate.(karma in sanskrit language ). Even the dying Hindu man would believe that he would hav a rebirth, whatever it may be and wherever it may be. Hindu religion further says that when the body perishes , the soul lives and it has no end. Whether one believes or not in the above Hindu theory, it certainly provides a sense of peace in the mind of the dying man who would reconcile himself , thinking that everything happens as per his fate , that are decided by his deeds.

The asisted suicide concept may be a good subject for debate and thesis writing and not beyond.

Nandini Voice for The Deprived
Email:- nsvenkatchennai@gmail.com

Alex Schadenberg said...

For me, the fundamental problem is that people pathologically attempt to agree, on what is right or wrong, in the hopes that they can arrive at a common legal arrangement that satisfies everyone. But beyond a certain point that is just not possible.

This is the main philosophical crisis of our times. People have claimed the right to disagree with one another, but they do seem to want to assume the consequences. It is simple really: disagree frankly, and just deal with the fall out.

As an example, I have a dear old friend who does not think as I do. He just "doesn't understand" how I can think such incorrect thoughts. I tell him that it is ok. That we don't have to agree. But in his world, what is right for one is right for all. Thus he cannot prevent himself from attempting to convince or coerce my submission. As I said. It is the crisis of our time.

And ironically, those whose resistance to orthodoxy first sparked "free conscience" to begin with, are just as disturbed that anyone might oppose their new dogmas!

Bottom line: disagreement is uncomfortable, and that discomfort is the price of our convictions. To Alex's point: it is ridiculous (and outrageous) that someone ostensibly representing authority among a group committed to specific moral principles, should be waffling on those principles in the hopes of reaching an impossible compromise.

Therefore as a non-catholic, I support the call to resign.

Gordon Friesen, President - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Anonymous said...

The Pontifical Academy for Life published a statement clarifying the comments - I think it is important to have the clarification available:


Alex Schadenberg said...

Please read my article Anonymous. There is a link to the clarification in the article. The weak attempt at a clarification is what made me feel forced to respond.


The statement by Archbishop Paglia is reason for his immediate dismissal from his present position.

I have the highest respect and regard for Alex!

I agree entirely with Alex's remarks on this scandalous statement by Archbishop Paglia.

MDoubleH said...

This is a very troubling situation to say the least. Thanks to "Anonymous" for asking if "withdrawal of life support" is considered "assisted suicide" and I'm relieved to read that it's NOT considered the same. Could the Archbishop be referring to the "withdrawal" issue and considering it the same as "administering of a substance"? In either case He's got some "'splaining to do". Thanks for keeping us informed Alex.

Alex Schadenberg said...

Dear MDoubleH:

Clearly the Archbishop is referring to the assisted suicide bill and court decision. My point was to offer the background to the court case, the decision and the assisted suicide bill just to explain how wrong Archbishop Paglia sadly is. Further to that Archbishop Paglia cut off the legs of the opposition to the assisted suicide bill in Italy by suggesting that it may be an acceptable political compromise.