Front-line professionals include Catholic lawyers and estate planners, funeral service providers, counsellors/therapists, teachers, and others who may encounter people who are contemplating “medical assistance in dying” and/or people who have loved ones that have requested and/or died by euthanasia or assisted suicide. If this describes you and your professional role, the information on this page is intended to help you serve and respond to the people you serve with compassion and truth.

 

Q. How should my Catholic faith influence my professional practice?+

As Christians, each one of us has the “noble obligation of working to bring all people throughout the whole world to hear and accept the divine message of salvation” (Decree on the Apostolate of the Lay People, Vatican II, paragraph 3). This obligation does not stop at the doors of the parish church. We are privileged to know the Truth – not just as an idea but in the person of Jesus Christ. St. Peter admonishes us to reverence Christ as Lord in our hearts and to “always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear” (1 Peter 3:15-16). In the same way, St. Paul solemnly urges us to “proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). Take heart. The Catholic Church is not simply opposed to euthanasia. Rather it is FOR LIFE and the salvation of souls. You have Good News to share!

Q. Can I provide professional services to a person who requests “MAID”?+

Ultimately, you as the moral agent must discern the answer to this question. Direct participation in “MAiD,” either by direct referral, prescribing a drug that the patient takes him- or herself, or administering a substance that causes death, is formal cooperation in evil and is always morally illicit. However, Catholic moral theology has discerned other forms of cooperation that allow one to ask: How far away – how remote – must my actions be from the evil act in order for them to be morally legitimate?
 
Click HERE for a helpful tool to assist you in discerning the remoteness of the proposed act and whether or not you can provide the services requested in good conscience. 

Q. Can a Catholic request euthanasia or assisted suicide in an advance directive or care plan?+

No. Catholics who want to align their advance directives and/or care plans with their Catholic faith can not request euthanasia (“MAiD”) in legal documents. The purpose of treatment in health care is to maintain, restore, or promote health and well-being. Euthanasia and assisted suicide do none of these things. Rather, the sole purpose is to intentionally cause death. The Catholic Health Alliance of Canada says that “intentionally causing one’s own death (suicide), or directly assisting another in such an action (assisted suicide), is morally wrong” (Health Ethics Guide, 2012).

Q. Is withdrawing treatment the same as euthanasia or assisted suicide?+

No. When a person reaches a point where continued intervention is deemed futile or disproportionate (the expected burdens of the treatment are greater than the expected benefits), withdrawing treatment simply allows nature to take its course. However, medically assisted nutrition and hydration must be given until the person can no longer benefit from this care. Withholding or withdrawing nutrition and hydration must never be done to hasten death (Catholic Health Alliance of Canada, Health Ethics Guide, 2012).

Q. Can I be present when a person I serve receives euthanasia or assisted suicide?+

No. Even when the state legally permits euthanasia and assisted suicide, as it does Canada, Catholics are not to take part in it. They may not request it as a treatment option, nor may they participate in it with or for another person. As hard as it may be, a Catholic must not be present when another person is killed or takes their own life by euthanasia or assisted suicide.

The most current magisterial teaching on end of life issues is Samaratianus bonus, a letter promulgated in 2020 by the then Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the care of persons in the critical and terminal phases of life. It states:

Those who spiritually assist these persons should avoid any gesture, such as remaining until the euthanasia is performed, that could be interpreted as approval of this action. Such a presence could imply complicity in this act. This principle applies in a particular way, but is not limited to, chaplains in the healthcare systems where euthanasia is practiced, for they must not give scandal by behaving in a manner that makes them complicit in the termination of human life. (Section V, 11).

This teaching is a guideline, rather than an absolute, but it is firmly grounded in 2000 years of Church teaching. Thus, it should be understood as coming from a place of deep theological, moral and pastoral reflection.

If you have already been present when a person died by euthanasia or assisted suicide, seek the Sacrament of Penance with a contrite heart. The priest may encourage you to make public your own conversion and rejection of euthanasia and assisted suicide, to pray fervently for the forgiveness and eternal salvation of the deceased, and/or to refuse to participate in any conversation that promotes this moral injustice.