Samaritanus Bonus

Letter from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Euthanasia and Pastoral Care

(The following are adapted excerpts from the linked PDF.)

The need for medical care is born of the vulnerability of the human condition in its finitude and limitations. Despite our best efforts, it is difficult to recognize the profound value of human life when we see it in its weakness and fragility.

Care for life is the first responsibility that guides the physician in the encounter with the sick. Careful consideration leads us to recognize the significance of the specific mission entrusted by God to every person, healthcare professional, pastoral worker, and by extension to patients and their families.

The Good Samaritan not only draws nearer to the man he finds half dead; he takes responsibility for him. This is the gaze of the one who does not pretend to take possession of the reality of life, but welcomes life as it is, with its inherent difficulties and suffering, and in so guided by faith, finds in illness the readiness to abandon oneself to the Lord of life who is manifest therein.

The experience of the Cross enables us to be present to the suffering person as a genuine interlocutor with whom to speak a work or express a thought, or entrust the anguish and fear that one feels. The proclamation of life after death is not an illusion nor merely a consolation, but a certainty lodged at the center of love that death cannot devour.

The Church affirms that the positive meaning of human life is something already knowable by right reason, and in the light of faith is confirmed and understood in its inalienable dignity. For this reason, abortion, euthanasia, and willful self-destruction poison human society, and are a supreme dishonour to the Creator.

Likewise, it is gravely unjust to enact laws that legalize euthanasia or justify and support suicide, invoking the false right to choose a death improperly characterized as respectable only because it is chosen. Such laws strike at the foundation of the legal order: the right to life sustains all other rights, including the exercise of freedom.

In the face of the legalization of euthanasia or assisted suicide — even when viewed simply as another form of medical assistance — governments must acknowledge the right to conscientious objection in the medical and healthcare field, where the principles of the natural moral law are involved, and especially where in the service to life the voice of conscience is daily invoked.

The mystery of the Redemption of the human person is in an astonishing way rooted in the loving involvement of God with human suffering. That is why we can entrust ourselves to God and to convey this certainty in faith to the person who is suffering and fearful of pain and death.

Healed by Jesus, we become men and women called to proclaim his healing power to love and provide the care for our neighbours to which He bore witness.