Pope Francis spoke out strongly against the practice of euthanasia this week, saying that it embodies a utilitarian vision that dehumanizes people.
“Technology is not at the service of human beings when it reduces them to a thing, when it distinguishes between those who still deserve to be treated and those who do not, because they are considered only a burden, and sometimes even a waste,” the pope told a group of doctors, patients, and members of the Italian Association of Medical Oncology Monday.
“The practice of euthanasia, which has become legal already in several countries, only apparently proposes to promote personal freedom,” he said. “In reality, it is based on a utilitarian view of the person, who becomes useless or can be measured by his cost, if from the medical point of view he has no hope of improvement or can no longer avoid pain.”
The pope’s words coincided with a landmark trial in the Netherlands involving a doctor from a Dutch nursing home who allegedly performed forced euthanasia on a woman with dementia who changed her mind at the last minute about wanting to die.
The doctor reportedly asked family members of the 74-year-old woman to hold her down when she resisted euthanasia in order to be able to administer the fatal injection that ended her life.
In his address Monday, the pope said that doctors are called to reject this utilitarian attitude and create a culture “more attentive to the value of each person.” This is accomplished, he said, by “accompanying the patient and his loved ones at all stages of the course, trying to alleviate their suffering through palliation, or by offering a family environment in hospices.”
The pontiff also encouraged pro-life doctors to never lose heart because of the incomprehension they can suffer by standing up for the value of human life and their unwillingness to go down “more radical and hasty roads.”
“If one chooses death, the problems are solved in a sense,” Francis said. “But how much bitterness follows this reasoning, and what a rejection of hope is involved in the choice of giving up everything and breaking all ties!”
Euthanasia seems like a rational solution, he said, apparently resolving everything while forgetting the most important element: hope.