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SYNODAL COMMITEE FOR BIOETHICS

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PRESS RELEASE

(14.12.2000)

EUTHANASIA

 

On November 28, 2000, the Dutch Parliament approved by a vote of 104-40 the legalisation of euthanasia. Since it is the first time in history that such an act has been legalised and that rationalistic perception of modern society easily sacrifices the respect for life and man in the altar of well-being and narrow self-interest, our Church introduces to her flock the following:

1) Our life constitutes the supreme gift from God, the beginning and end of which depends entirely on Him (Job 12:10). It is within biological life that man’s free will finds its full expression, encounters the grace of God and thus his salvation is being realised.

2) The moments of our life which are connected to its beginning and end, such as the moments of weakness, of pain and of our trials, have a unique sacredness and constitute a mystery which requires special respect on the part of the relatives, the doctors, the nurses and society as a whole. These moments facilitate humbleness, open up the road of the quest for God and provoke miracles and the sign of God’s grace and presence.

3) These moments favour the bond between human beings, the development of love and communion, the manifestation of sympathy and mercy. The request of certain patients to end their lives may conceal a wish to test their relatives’ love and desire to be with them for as long as possible. During these moments one can experience the grace of God and the love of human beings.

4) The presence of pain in human life, as well as any other trial, is "a contributor to man’s salvation" and sometimes "even superior to health itself," according to saint Gregory Palamas. Nevertheless, the Church, recognising the weakness of human nature, requests always with philanthropy the deliverance from "all affliction, wrath, danger and need", and often prays for the repose of people in pain (prayer for people in agony of death). As human beings, our task is to pray, not to decide about life and death.

5) Society, being unable to treat pain with patience, prayer, human support and divine encouragement, copes with suffering and pain solely by the use of medicines. Recently, it introduced the practice of provoked death, which it identifies as "good" (in Greek eu-thanasia means "good death"); yet, it accepts death only as a socio-biological event in the course of every human being.

6) While euthanasia is justified in a secular sense as a "dignified death", in reality, it constitutes an assisted suicide, namely a combination of murder and suicide.

7) The so-called "right to death," which justifies the legalisation of euthanasia, could develop into a threat for the life of patients who are unable to respond to the financial demands of their therapy and hospitalisation.

8) Therefore, the Orthodox Church proclaiming

the immortality of the soul,

the resurrection of the body,

the eternal perspective and reality of man,

pain as "the marks of Lord Jesus" on our bodies (Gal. 6:17),

trials as causes and opportunities for salvation,

the prospect of growing loving communion and mutual support,

rejects every death resulting from human decisions and choices as being an insult against God –no matter how "good" it may be called. Moreover, the Church condemns as unethical and insulting for the medical profession every medical act, which does not contribute to the prolongation of life, but, instead, provokes the speeding up of the moment of death.


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