Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney at a Vatican press conference Oct. 5, 2018. / Daniel Ibanez.
Sydney, Australia, Nov 11, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).
The Archbishop of Sydney has urged the faithful to speak out against euthanasia as New South Wales considers legalizing the practice.
The New South Wales parliament is expected to begin debate on the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 on Nov. 12, less than a month after it was introduced by member Alex Greenwich.
“I strongly oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide because we shouldn’t be telling sick people by our laws that we think they would be better off dead or that we would be better off if they were dead,” said Archbishop Anthony Fisher, O.P. in a Nov. 8 letter to his archdiocese.
He said it was “very important” that people voice their opposition to the Voluntary Assisted Dying Bill 2021 during the public inquiry period, which ends Nov. 22.
The prevalence of elder abuse, along with “alarming rates of suicide amongst the vulnerable,” means that New South Wales should be “especially cautious” when it comes to legalizing euthanasia, said the archbishop.
“A just and compassionate society can surely find more respectful and loving ways of dealing with suffering at the end-of-life than killing the suffering person,” said Fisher.
In another letter to the archdiocese, dated Nov. 11, Fisher re-iterated the call for people to speak out against the law, and explained he fully understands why people call for legalized euthanasia due to his own experiences in 2016. Debate on the bill begins Nov. 12.
“As someone who has experienced the pain and humiliation of serious illness, I need you to speak up for life,” said Fisher.
“A few years ago I was close to death,” he said. “I had a severe case of Guillain-Barré syndrome and was totally paralysed from the neck down. I was in terrible pain. I was powerless to feed or wash myself. I was a burden on others and didn’t want to be. I spent five months in hospital alongside others.”
Still, said the archbishop, there is “too much violence and abuse in our community, some of it lethal,” and there is no need to normalize “killing or neglect, whether of the young or elderly, the able or disabled, the depressed or lonely, the living or the dying.”
“Surely it is not beyond the wit of human beings to find a better way to deal with suffering,” said Fisher. The Catholic Church supports palliative care, which means seeking to accompany a patient towards the end of their lives with methods such as pain management, and is against the practices of assisted suicide, euthanasia, or assisted death.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s September 2020 letter Samaritanus bonus reaffirmed the Church’s perennial teaching on the sinfulness of euthanasia and assisted suicide. The congregation recalled the obligation of Catholics to accompany the sick and dying through prayer, physical presence, and the sacraments.
Catholic bishops in Australia have repeatedly written in support of palliative care as an alternative to assisted suicide and euthanasia. However, many countries, including Australia, have a shortage of palliative care physicians; in February 2021, an Australian university found that the country has less than half the number of palliative care physicians needed to care for terminally ill patients.