A Catholic charity in Belgium declared Tuesday that they will continue to offer euthanasia to mentally ill patients, despite Pope approved orders to stop immediately.
The Belgian branch of the Brothers of Charity, also called the Brothers of Love, issued a statement Tuesday that they will continue offering euthanasia in each of their 15 psychiatric hospitals, despite receiving orders from the Vatican to reverse their euthanasia policy by the end of August, according to Crux Now. The Vatican issued an order, personally approved by Pope Francis, for the Belgian branch to not only reverse their policy, but also for each member of the charity’s board to sign a letter re-affirming their commitment to the church’s stance on the sanctity of life. The charity now faces expulsion from the Catholic Church, and the members of the board face dismissal from the their institute, despite maintaining that their euthanasia policy is fully in line with Catholic doctrine.
“The organization Brothers of Love remains behind her vision statement about euthanasia in psychiatric suffering in a non-terminal situation,” the Belgian branch’s statement reads.
As for the question of whether or not their stance is in line with Catholic doctrine, the brother’s statement reads “We emphatically think so.”
The Belgian branch’s current policy allows for doctors to euthanize non-terminal mentally ill patients upon request, so long as the doctor determines that the patient’s suffering is “unbearable” and that there is no reasonable chance of improvement with treatment. Belgian law has no definition of unbearable suffering, however, which opens the door for mentally ill patients with a chance of improvement being euthanized instead, according to Professor Raphael Cohen-Almagor, Chair of Politics at England’s Hull University.
“Requests for euthanasia will be approved only if the patient is in a hopeless medical condition and complains of constant and unbearable physical or mental pain which cannot be relieved and is the result of a serious and incurable accidental or pathological condition,” Cohen-Almagor wrote of Belgian law.
“Thus, the law opens the door for physically healthy persons to request that their lives be ended because they are tired of life. Does a person who finds no meaning in life suffer unbearably? It would be very difficult, almost impossible, for an assessment committee to judge whether the criteria for euthanasia are satisfied, if the symptoms cannot be interpreted in the context of the physical condition,” Cohen-Almagor added.
Regardless of potential loopholes in Belgian law, the Catechism of the Catholic Church remains clearly, opposed to euthanasia as evidenced in paragraph 2277, which states:
“Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.”
The Vatican is expected to issue a reply to the Belgian branch’s defiant stance.
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