Pope Francis Decries Euthanasia Advocacy in Europe - Physician-Assisted Suicide Legal in Several U.S. States and Canada

Medical advances keep people living longer. There is a massive growth of those in long-term care. Euthanasia is a growing discussion worldwide, and the Pontiff expresses his concern.

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Pope Francis Decries Euthanasia Advocacy in Europe - Physician-Assisted Suicide Legal in Several U.S. States and Canada
4 Min Read November 14th, 2022

According to Pope Francis, a "throw-away mentality" is spreading, as evidenced by the rise in euthanasia advocacy in various European nations. According to the Pontiff, if we look for justifications for killing, we will only wind up "killing more and more.” Hear the comments on Rome Reports.

The pope said that in today's throw-away culture, the elderly can be viewed as "waste material." 

But they are wisdom. They are the roots of wisdom of our civilization, and this civilization discards them.

Growing Support in Europe

In 2002, active and direct euthanasia became permitted in the Netherlands. Patients who request lethal amounts of medication while conscious are allowed to receive them. Additionally, they must be going through unbearable pain as a result of a condition that at least two doctors have declared to be incurable.

The highest court in the nation issued a ruling allowing doctors to carry out assisted suicides on patients with severe dementia without fear of legal repercussions, even if the patient no longer explicitly indicated a desire to die.

In 2002, Belgium removed its prohibitions on euthanasia for patients experiencing constant, unbearable, and untreatable physical or psychological suffering. A law allowing euthanasia in specific terminal conditions was enacted in the neighboring country of Luxembourg in 2009, although it excluded minors.

Spanish lawmakers approved a bill permitting euthanasia under strict guidelines so that people who are terminally ill or seriously injured might put an end to their suffering.

France Next for Assisted Suicide?

Now, France is considering assisted suicide. A 2016 law in France allows physicians to keep terminally ill patients sedated until death, but it does not permit assisted suicide. However, French President Emmanuel Macron says a national debate is to widen end-of-life options, including exploring the possibility of legalizing assisted suicide.

In a written statement, Macron stated that discussions will be held across France as a group of citizens will work on the problem in the upcoming months in collaboration with health care professionals. 

Macron intimated that he personally backed the legalization of physician-assisted suicide as part of his pledge to start the conversation during his reelection campaign earlier this year.

Physician-Assisted Suicide Legal in Some U.S. States

Oregon was the first state in the United States to allow physician-assisted suicide (PAS) for terminally ill adults who meet specific requirements in November of 1994. While PAS is permitted in Oregon, Washington, and Montana, active euthanasia is prohibited in every state. Who gives the lethal medication is what distinguishes physician-assisted suicide from euthanasia. In the first instance, the doctor or another person delivers medication, whereas, in the second instance, the patient administers it on his or her own, albeit with the doctor's advice.

Physician-assisted suicide (PAS) is now permitted in the United States in the following states: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Legal in Canada

In 2016 legislation to legalize physician-assisted death was approved by Canadian lawmakers after several weeks of deliberation. The legislation restricts the option to the terminally sick, needs physician approval, and mandates a 15-day waiting period.

Curbing the Spread

Pope Francis is attempting to curb the spread of euthanasia and saying that the elderly have value to society. The pope talked about the law of ''hidden euthanasia,'' where people say that because medications are expensive, maybe provide half of them, which results in shortening the life of the elderly.

In an interview with COPE, the radio station owned by the Spanish bishops' conference, Pope Francis said that older people are considered a nuisance and disposable.

Not all of them, but of course, in the collective subconscious of the throw-away culture, the old, the terminally ill.

Pope Francis

In a live-streamed address to members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the pope said the elderly are the roots of wisdom of our civilization, and this civilization discards them. 

Pope Living with Chronic Health Problems

The pope has spoken out against euthanasia with regularity. Pope Francis has talked about this issue while having ongoing health problems of his own. His recent health problems include declining mobility, which has led to rumors that he plans to retire. 

The Pope has sciatica, a disorder that results in pain that travels down the sciatic nerve from the lower back to the bottom portion of the body. He occasionally struggles to walk because of the pain, so he frequently undergoes physical treatment.

Palliative Care Promotes Human Dignity

Pope Francis and his predecessors have been vocal proponents of palliative care. They have supported efforts to expand the scope and provision of palliative care. Palliative care promotes human dignity, decrease human suffering, and discourages euthanasia and suicide. Recently, Pope Francis has emphasized the need to do so as an act of mercy, love, and solidarity.

To improve their quality of life, palliative care is provided to patients with serious or life-threatening illnesses, including cancer. Palliative care aims to treat the patient as a whole, not just their illness. The objective is to prevent or treat the disease's symptoms, side effects, and any associated psychological, social, and spiritual issues as early as feasible.

Hospice Helps Those in Final Days of Life

Pope Francis has also supported those in hospice. Hospice care is provided when there is no hope of a cure, and the individual has a life expectancy of six months or less. The emphasis in hospice shifts to symptom control and quality of life.

The pope has visited many people in hospice. Several years ago, during a visit to a hospital hospice center, the Vatican said the pope wanted to show his support of life.

The Holy Father wanted to give a strong sign of the importance of life, from its first moment to its natural end. The acceptance of life and the guarantee of human dignity at all stages of development are lessons repeatedly stressed by Pope Francis.

The Vatican said the pope's visit was a "concrete and tangible sign" of how essential it is to give our attention "to those in the most vulnerable and precarious situations."

Over 1.6 million people were in hospice in the United States in 2021. Hospice in the U.S. can be provided at home or in a nursing home or hospital. 

The discussion of "end of life" issues will continue to grow as the world ages. More and more people require long-term health care and medical advances keep people living longer and, in some cases, lingering. Quality of care and quality of life are significant concerns for families. 

Health insurance and Medicare pay for most hospice services. Most Long-Term Care Insurance policies will also pay for hospice services when required. 

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About the Author

An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

LTC News Contributor James Kelly

James Kelly

Contributor since August 21st, 2017

Editor's Note

Good quality of life is something we all strive for as we get older. Medical advances allow a longer life, but the quality of that life can diminish as we age. 

However, while many of us will need long-term health care, it doesn't necessarily mean it ends the quality of our life. Today there are professional in-home care providers and quality facilities, like assisted living, that can allow older adults to still enjoy life and still receive the care they need.

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This quality care costs money. The cost of long-term care services is exploding nationally due to inflation, increased demand for care, and higher labor costs. These costs vary depending on where you live, but they are not cheap. 

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Long-Term Care Insurance will provide guaranteed tax-free funds to pay for your choice of quality care services, including care at home. Your assets get protected, and your loved ones have the time to remain family instead of being your caregiver. 

Most people get their coverage in their 50s. Several top insurance companies offer these plans, but premiums do vary dramatically. Get accurate quotes from the top companies from an experienced Long-Term Care Insurance specialist.

Aging is a reality. Changing health is something we all must deal with. Even healthy people need help with everyday living activities, even if it is because of frailty from old age. Being prepared will make it easier for everyone. Expressing your desires with your family beforehand will give everyone peace of mind.

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