A Swiss bishop has instructed Catholic priests not to give last rites to people suspected of seeking assisted suicide, following a sharp rise in the practice in his country.
“It is increasingly difficult to take the right decisions in the face of death – there’s even a sense of helplessness,” said the Bishop of Chur, Vitus Huonder.
“The readiness of a suffering patient to commit suicide with help from a bystander places any priest in an impossible situation if called to administer sacraments. Under such conditions, their reception is impossible – all a priest can do is offer a prayer of intercession and commend the dying to God’s mercy.”
In a pastoral message for Human Rights Day – which takes place on 10th December – the bishop said contemporary society was “showered with random data” and often showed a “frightening superficiality towards moral issues.”
However, he added that Church teaching was clear that medical treatment should “respect life as well as death,” and not “impair the natural process of dying.”
“Medicine’s modern possibilities have made us increasingly dependent, especially if no longer capable of judgment, on qualified persons in the last stage of our existence,” said Bishop Huonder, who is also apostolic administrator of Zurich.
Picture: Objectors to assisted suicide hold up placards outside the Scottish Parliament. (Andrew Milligan/PA).