A “full agreement” and a common commitment: this is the substance of the Declaration signed on October 28, 2019, in the Vatican, by the three Abrahamic religions – Christians, Jews, Muslims – about the end of life. The signatories “categorically” refuse euthanasia and assisted suicide and plead for accompaniment of the person: “effectively alleviate suffering, keep company and give emotional and spiritual support”.
The representatives of monotheistic religions also oppose the relentless treatment: “When death is imminent despite the means used, it is justified to take the decision to refuse certain medical treatments that would do nothing but extend a life precarious, painful, suffering. “
This statement, reads in the text published in English and Italian, aims to “present the position” of the three religions about the terminally ill, to help the health staff to “better understand respect, guide, help and comfort the believer and his family at the end of life “and promote” understanding “between religions and secular ethics.
Several rabbis were present at the ceremony, including David Rosen, and Avraham Steinberg, co-chair of Israel’s National Council of Bioethics. Among the Muslim representatives: Samsul Anwar, chairman of the Central Committee of the Indonesian Muhammadiyah and Sheikh Bin Bayah. Various messages have been read by great rabbis, Metropolitan Hilarion of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow.
The Declaration was then handed to Pope Francis during a hearing.
Following are the 12 points of agreement:
- Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are inherently consequentially morally and religiously wrong and should be forbidden with no exceptions. Any pressure upon dying patients to end their lives by active and deliberate actions is categorically rejected.
- No health care provider should be coerced or pressured to either directly or indirectly assist in the deliberate and intentional death of a patient through assisted suicide or any form of euthanasia, especially when it is against the religious beliefs of the provider. It has been well accepted throughout the generations that conscientious objection to acts that conflict with a person’s ethical values should be respected. This also remains valid even if such acts have been accepted by the local legal system, or by certain groups of citizens. Moral objections regarding issues of life and death certainly fall into the category of conscientious objection that should be universally respected.
- We encourage and support validated and professional palliative care everywhere and for everyone. Even when efforts to continue staving off death seem unreasonably burdensome, we are morally and religiously duty-bound to provide comfort, effective pain, and symptoms relief, companionship, care and spiritual assistance to the dying patient and to her/his family.
- We commend laws and policies that protect the rights and the dignity of the dying patient, in order to avoid euthanasia and promote palliative care.
- We, as a society, must assure that patients’ desire not to be a burden does not inspire them the feeling of being useless and the subsequent unawareness of the value and dignity of their life, which deserves care and support until its natural end.
- All health care providers should be duty-bound to create the conditions by which religious assistance is assured to anyone who asks for it, either explicitly or implicitly.
- We are committed to use our knowledge and research to shape policies that promote socio-emotional, physical and spiritual care and wellbeing, by providing the utmost information and care to those facing grave illness and death.
- We are committed to engage our communities on the issues of bioethics related to the dying patient, as well as to acquaint them with techniques of compassionate companionship for those who are suffering and dying.
- We are committed to raising public awareness about palliative care through education and providing resources concerning treatments for the suffering and the dying.
- We are committed to providing succor to the family and to the loved ones of dying patients.
- We call upon all policy-makers and health-care providers to familiarize themselves with this wide-ranging Abrahamic monotheistic perspective and teaching in order to provide the best care to dying patients and to their families who adhere to the religious norms and guidance of their respective religious
- We are committed to involving the other religions and all people of goodwill