Cardinal John Dew spoke on behalf of the New Zealand bishops at Parliament’s Health Select Committee on December 7, as part of the End of Life inquiry being conducted by the select committee. “Catholic teaching regarding the end of life is well known, however we would like to share with you our extensive and long experience of our priests and chaplains accompanying the dying and with those who are grieving,” Cardinal Dew told the select committee members.
“In my more than 40 years as a priest I have been with countless people towards the end of their life, and personally witnessed moments of tenderness, forgiveness, laughing together, saying sorry, expressing gratitude and appreciation, admiration and respect,” he said.
“I have no doubt that many families and the dying will be robbed of these deeply human moments if legalised euthanasia is available.”
New Zealand’s bishops had earlier made a written submission to the inquiry.
At Parliament, Cardinal Dew noted that: “We see the dedication and commitment of family members, but also know only too well that families are complex and messy.”
“Families face many struggles, strains and challenges, especially when caring for someone who is elderly, dying or disabled.
“Pope Francis has a phrase he likes to use: Our ‘families do not drop down from heaven perfectly formed’. Personal experience tells us that even the best families have times of real struggle.
“Sometimes this leads to fractured relationships; a carer or carers can feel isolated and unable to cope and the person being cared for is extremely susceptible to feeling like they have become a burden. No one should feel unsupported or feel that they are a burden to their family or community,” he said.
“In these situations,” the cardinal warned, “the very availability of euthanasia will create a demand because its legalisation will send the message that it is not just socially acceptable but socially desirable – many people will feel that their best or only option is euthanasia or assisted suicide.”
Cardinal Dew ended by challenging the MPs saying “You will be asking society to judge someone’s quality of life, and a person’s family and carers and themselves will be drawn into that judgement. And really who are we to judge?”