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Benedict XVI: Believers Shouldn't Die Alone

Reiterates Condemnation of all Forms of Euthanasia


VATICAN CITY, FEB. 25, 2008 ( It's the duty of Christians to accompany those who are dying, and no believer should die alone, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this today upon receiving in audience participants in the international congress of the Pontifical Academy for Life titled "Close by the Incurable Sick Person and the Dying: Scientific and Ethical Aspects." The two-day conference is being held in conjunction with the dicastery's general assembly, which will be held in the
Vatican over the coming days.


"Death," said the Holy Father, "concludes the experience of earthly life, but through death there opens for each of us, beyond time, the full and definitive life. For the community of believers, this encounter between the dying person and the source of life and love represents a gift that has a universal value, that enriches the
communion of the faithful."


The Pontiff highlighted how others should participate alongside close relatives in the last moments of a person's life. "No believer," he said, "should die alone and abandoned." Benedict XVI said all of society "is called to respect the life and dignity of the seriously ill and the dying." "Though aware of the fact that 'it is not science that redeems man,'" he added, "all of society, and in particular the sectors associated with medical science, are duty bound to express the solidarity of  love, and to safeguard and respect human life in every moment of its earthly development, especially when it is ill or in its terminal stages."


"In more concrete terms," said the Pope, "this means ensuring that every person in need finds the necessary support through appropriate treatments and medical procedures -- identified and administered using criteria of therapeutic proportionality -- while bearing in mind the moral duty to administer on the part of doctors, and to accept on the part of patients, those means for preserving life which, in a particular situation, may be considered as 'ordinary.'" The Hoy Father said that regarding forms of treatment "with significant levels of risk or that may reasonably be judged to be 'extraordinary,'" those may be considered acceptable, but optional. However, he added, "it will always be necessary to ensure that everyone has the treatment they require, and that families tried by the sickness of one of their members receive support, especially if the sickness is serious or prolonged."


Death leave


Benedict XVI also recommended that relatives or those caring for the terminally ill have specific rights to take time off work, in a way similar to the leave family members take when a child is born. "A greater respect for individual human life inevitably comes through the concrete solidarity of each and all, and constitutes one of the most pressing challenges of our times," he added.


After noting how it is becoming ever more common for elderly people in large cities to be alone, "even in moments of serious illness and when approaching death," the Holy Father noted that such situations
increase pressure toward euthanasia, "especially when a utilitarian view of people has become established."

The Pope once again recalled "the firm and constant ethical condemnation of all forms of direct euthanasia, in keeping with the centuries-long teaching of the Church." "The synergetic efforts of civil society and of the community of believers," the Pontiff said, "must ensure not only that everyone is able to live in a dignified and responsible way, but also that they can face moments of trial and of death in the finest condition of fraternity and solidarity, even where death comes in a poor family or a hospital bed." Society, said Benedict XVI, must "ensure due support to families who undertake to care in the home, sometimes for long periods, sick members who are afflicted with degenerative conditions, [...] or who need particularly costly assistance."


He added, "It is above all in this field that synergy between the Church and the institutions can prove particularly important in ensuring the necessary help for human life in moments of frailty." © 2008
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