In his most powerful statement to date, Pope Francis has urged authorities to spare the lives of two disabled persons due to be euthanized, Vincent Lambert in France and Alfie Evans in the UK.
“I draw attention again to Vincent Lambert and Little Alfie Evans, and I would like to reiterate and strongly confirm that the only Lord of life, from the beginning to the natural end, is God!” Francis announced before the crowds gathered in Saint Peter’s Square for his weekly general audience.
“And our duty, our duty is to do everything to preserve life,” he declared. “We think in silence and pray that the lives of all people and especially of these two brothers of ours are respected. Let us pray in silence.”
Wednesday’s statement stakes a clear Vatican position in the two cases and ups the ante for the officials responsible for the decision to euthanize both patients against the will of their respective parents.
Already on Sunday the pope had publicly called for respect for the lives of the two disabled persons whose lives are at stake, although on that occasion his language was more subdued.
“I entrust to your prayers people like Vincent Lambert, in France, little Alfie Evans, in England, and others in different countries, who live, sometimes for a long time, in a state of serious infirmity, assisted medically for their primary needs,” the pope told pilgrims in the Vatican on Sunday.
While noting that these are “delicate, very painful and complex situations,” the pope asked “that every sick person is always respected in his dignity and cared for in an appropriate way to his condition, with the agreement of family members, doctors and other health workers, with great respect for life.”
In Wednesday’s message, however, Francis took an important step further, reminding those responsible for end-of-life decisions that only God is “the Lord of life” from its beginning through to its “natural end.”
In other words, choosing to bring that life to and end sooner means playing God.
Last week, a judge in the UK ruled that Alfie Evans must be removed from life support against the wishes of his parents, backing the decision by Alder Hey Children’s Hospital to allow the 23-month-old baby boy to die.
In the case of Vincent Lambert, the Sebastopol Hospital in Reims, France, has ordered that their patient no longer receive food and water, which will cause him to die of starvation.
Vincent’s physician Dr. Vincent Sanchez ruled last Monday that continuing to feed and hydrate the patient constituted “unreasonable obstinacy” and mandated that he be euthanized within ten days.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome