“Dying with dignity must promote life in its beauty and fragility”, says Bishop Hérouard

“Dying with dignity must promote life in its beauty and fragility”, says Bishop Hérouard

“You will choose life”Dt 30.19

Ethical questions are back on the political and media scene with the announcement by the President of the Republic of a citizen debate on the end of life, which could lead to a new bill. The end of life is an intimate question, which affects every citizen, believer or not, and which has consequences on the very balance of our society. Each of us has the experience of the end of life of loved ones which is often a painful experience, not only by the separation which marks death but by the more or less difficult conditions in which it occurred. The first question is that of suffering, physical and moral, and how to alleviate it when it occurs. Medicine has been able to make considerable progress in the treatment and relief of pain, but too many people do not have access to it and palliative care services have lagged behind in their development. I have been able to see from experience, when they are well implemented, what they can provide in terms of reassurance for the person at the end of life and especially in relational quality with loved ones: ability to say goodbye, confidences precious for those who remain, possible reconciliation in family tensions.

Most often when someone says: “I can’t take it anymore, I want to die”, it’s more a question of understanding: “I don’t want to suffer anymore”. This means that if the pain is properly relieved, the question will no longer be the same. Before even wondering about a change in the law, we must honestly take stock of the existing laws (Leonetti-Clays Law) and see what has not been applied in what is defined for the development of palliative care. The media have widely relayed the fact that the National Consultative Ethics Committee (CCNE) had in a recent opinion opened up the possibility of “active assistance in dying”, in other words euthanasia, which is not all absolutely correct, since he says that this option would not be ethical if palliative care were not developed first. We must therefore beware of the effects of announcements and tremble before considering the smallest breach in the fundamental commandment: “Thou shalt not kill”. This is not a religious prescription but the very cement of society. Some want to present euthanasia or assisted suicide as a personal freedom that everyone would be free to request or not, without seeing the weakening that this would entail vis-à-vis the youngest, dependent elderly, seriously ill… It is quickly done to feel or to be felt as a useless burden for society and the example of the countries which have embarked on this path is not there to reassure, when we see the conditions of access to this practice widening always more (minor children, psychological pain, people who are not at the end of their life, etc.). Without forgetting the implications for the medical staff: they are committed to treating and relieving, how to ask them to transform themselves into instruments of death?

The fact of wanting to die with dignity is not the prerogative of militant groups but must always be an invitation to promote life in its beauty and its fragility. It is indeed an “active help to live” that we need!


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