The bishops of France ask “to choose active help to live and die well”

At the end of their plenary assembly and while the debate on the end of life is topical in France, the bishops of France reaffirm in a letter their commitment to palliative care and their rejection of euthanasia.

Adelaide Patrignani – Vatican City

“O Death, where is your victory?”: the verse of St. Paul (1 Cor 15.54b-55) opens this new reflection of the French episcopate on the end of life. The debate on the subject will soon be relaunched in the country, where a citizens’ convention will be launched on December 9th. The conclusions will be drawn in March 2023. The question asked to 150 Frenchmen drawn by lot will be the following: “Is the end of life support framework adapted to the different situations encountered or should changes be made?”

The bishops also question themselves in this long pastoral letter published by Lourdes on Tuesday 8 November. “Can we actively help a person die? Can anyone be asked to actively help die? By daring to look at death with Jesus, the Christ, we can initiate an answer ». explain, adding a little more: “Even if our society hides death and looks it hardly in the face, it is the companion of our life and fraternally reminds us of its outcome”.

Develop palliative care

The episcopate then places the accent on palliative care, believing that its development is “An important gain of our time. In a very happy way, this treatment combines medical competence, human accompaniment thanks to a quality relationship between the care team, patient and loved ones, and respect for the person as a whole with his history and desires, including spiritual ones ” . The EFC encourages “Research and development of palliative care so that every person at the end of life can benefit from it, whether at home, in an EHPAD or in hospital. Dear brothers and sisters, it is good for each of you to inquire about palliative care to accompany one of your loved ones who may need it ”. she invites.

But the bishops also recognize cases of great suffering that “raise legitimate questions”and the“active assistance in dying” apparently it could be an answer.

The dangers of euthanasia

However, they warn, “Killing to eliminate suffering is neither a cure nor an accompaniment: on the contrary, it is eliminating the suffering person and interrupting all relationships. […] It is a serious transgression of a prohibition that structures our social life: our societies have organized themselves by limiting all attacks on the lives of others ”. It would also cause “Of remorse and sins that insidiously gnaw the heart of the human being who has agreed to put his neighbor to death, to the point of encountering the mercy of the living God”.

The bishops oppose this choice with that of lived accompaniment “with patience”, encourage people to rediscover the treasures of the Christian tradition – prayer, sacraments, silent vigil – a “know how to stay” with the sick or the dying “In a human, truly fraternal way”.

Discerns the “choice of life”

They also mention sedation, “often intermittent” and that “Must be proportionate. Rarely, the healthcare team may find it fair to accept a patient’s request to receive continuous sedation until death or to consider it with relatives when the patient can no longer express their wishes. It is therefore not a question of causing death, but of alleviating suffering. These decisions, always collegial, must be made in a delicate exchange with loved ones, in particular to leave time, as far as possible, for true farewells. specify.

Let us help each other, listening to the opinion of the caregivers, to discern between what is care, hydration and food due to the patient, even if death becomes certain, and what could be futile therapeutic inexorability and source of unnecessary suffering. Yes, let us help us discern life choices by consenting to the death that is coming “, add the French bishops, after a meditation on the end of life considered in the light of baptismal grace.

Strengthen the brotherhood

The episcopate also addresses the issue of collective responsibility in the case of euthanasia, often presented as an individual choice. They invite us not to forget the “the eminently social dimension of death, and the human solidarity that derives from it”. “We are all related beings, happy to confide in each other. It is in trust in others that everyone can consider their own death. they write, while “Living death as an individual choice, to do or not to do, is inhumane”.

In this thorny debate on the end of life, “Faith and charity illuminate our path and guide our steps in the face of death and the accompaniment due to the dying. They also ask to avoid judgments that are incompatible with the respect due to each human person. They give the courage to constantly begin to build a fraternity, with the grace of God and the help of the community ”.

Finally, the bishops propose to consider death as pacification, with gratitude for life. They give thanks for all who “Contribute to the victory of peace”. “How many witnesses reveal to us the fruitfulness of caring for the dying so that peace reaches their souls and also the hearts of their loved ones!”they underline, also inviting us to pray to the Holy Spirit “To give our society the joy of choosing life, of choosing active help to live and die well”. “Let us pray, aware of how much the great debate on the end of life can resound in the depths of each of us”, concludes the French episcopate, addressing the Virgin Mary who knows “The beauty of life and the greatness of fraternity”.

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