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Pope Francis condemns euthanasia as utilitarianism, not as freedom

Pope Francis condemns euthanasia as utilitarianism, not as freedom
Euthanasia is a way of treating the human person as an object; while it may seem to give freedom, it is really a rejection of hope, said Pope Francis to an oncology association on September 2.

"The practice of euthanasia, which has already been legalized in several countries, only apparently aims to encourage personal freedom," he said on September 2.

"In reality," he continued, "it is based on a utilitarian vision of the person, which becomes useless or can be equated with a cost, if from the medical point of view he has no hope of improvement or can no longer avoid pain.

"If you choose death, the problems are solved in a certain sense; but how much bitterness behind this reasoning, and what rejection of hope entails choosing to abandon everything and break all ties," he said.

Pope Francis said that medical technology is not used for its just purpose, the service of the human person, when it "reduces him to one thing", or makes distinctions between those who do not deserve to be treated because "a burden" or "a waste".

The opposite approach is the commitment to accompany the patient and his loved ones at all stages, trying to alleviate suffering through palliative care, or the family environment of the hospice, claimed. This "contributes to creating a culture and practice more attentive to the value of each person".

Countries with legal euthanasia are the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia, Luxembourg and Canada. Assisted suicide is legal in the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany and in the United States: Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, Montana, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, California and Maine (since 1 January 2020).

Pope Francis spoke of euthanasia to a group of about 150 members of the Italian Association of Medical Oncology, in audience in the Vatican.

He encouraged medical staff to "never be discouraged by the misunderstanding that might be encountered, or before the insistent proposal of more radical and hasty paths", adding that their work includes raising awareness in a society "that is not very aware and is sometimes distracted".

Francis described a kind of "Pandora's Box", in which everything is explained except hope. "And we must go and look for this," he said. "How to explain hope, indeed, how to give it in the most limited cases".

In the public, the Pope praised the attention of the Association in providing the best care for each individual patient, according to its unique biology, calling it "an oncology of mercy", because the customization of care puts the focus on the individual, not only on the disease, claimed.  

He encouraged health care workers to take Jesus as an example, while also stressing the importance of Christ for those who are sick. Jesus, he said, "helps them to find the strength not to break the bonds of love, to offer their suffering to their brothers, to maintain friendship with God.

"Inspire everyone to be close to those who suffer, especially the little ones, and to put the weak first, so that a more humane society and relationships marked by gratuitousness rather than opportunity can grow," he urged.

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