New Year Brings Legal Assisted Suicide to Austria

Passed Against Strong Objections by Catholic Church

Legal Assisted Suicide to Austria
cathopic

While the new year brings hope to many parts of the world, it brings legal assisted suicide to Austria.

Passed against strong objections by the Catholic Church, assisted suicide now is available to those adults deemed to suffer too much to stay alive, reported Vatican News.

Authorities say the practice is tightly regulated. Assisted suicide will be limited to terminally ill adults or those with a permanent debilitating condition.

Under the law, underaged children and people suffering from mental health issues cannot access this option, Vatican News said. Those seeking suicide will have to consult with two doctors about their case.

Depending on their condition, patients must wait between two and 12 weeks to reflect on their decision before they are allowed to access lethal drugs from a pharmacy.

Under the new law, which passed in December, it will still be illegal to assist someone else’s suicide actively. The legislation came into force on New Year’s Day despite fierce opposition from Austria’s Catholic Bishops.

Pope’s Prayers

In his November prayer intention, Pope Francis prayed for people suffering from depression, a major affliction that can lead to suicide.

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has caused the death of millions of people. It has also tried the mental and emotional resilience of countless people and has affected their psychological equilibrium. Sometimes, this has created situations of real anguish and despair. With this reality in view, the Holy Father asks that we “be close to those who are exhausted, to those who are desperate, without hope. Often, we should simply listen in silence.”

Austrian Archbishop Franz Lackner had warned that the law presents in his words “unacceptable flaws.”

The president of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference expressed concern that applicants for assisted suicide are only assessed by two doctors and not by an additional clinical psychologist or psychiatrist.

Archbishop Lackner warned that this makes assisted suicide a trivial medical prescription as it is virtually not prosecutable, despite such requirements by the Constitutional Court.

He noted that assisted suicide had become standard practice in countries where euthanasia was legalized.

Austria is now among several European countries that have legalized forms of assisted dying, including Belgium and the Netherlands, France, Spain, and Switzerland.

Further away, Canada also expanded its law on the practice under certain circumstances. And in the United States, several states have “death with dignity statutes” that permit doctor-assisted deaths for terminally ill patients.

A webinar was held on 12 July 2021 that aimed to provide a rational guide to the assisted suicide debate with two speakers with extensive experience of this complex and sensitive subject.

Lamentable cultural trend

However, Austrian Bishops view legalizing assisted suicide as part of a “cultural trend by which the only form of life worth living is a full and active life.”

The Bishops condemned what they saw as the manipulative nature of the words “dying with dignity” surrounding the suicide law in Austria, a heavily Catholic nation.

They fear that the legislation will further contribute to an era where “every handicap or disease is seen as a failure that cannot be tolerated.”

Support for end-of-life care

Instead, they say additional financial resources should be made available for supporting the suffering and terminally ill patients.

Archbishop Lackner said Austria’s legislation ignores that every suicide remains a human tragedy and that every life is valuable.

He stressed the law is “unfair toward all those people who make it possible to die with dignity through reliable and attentive care and who will continue in the future.”