Euthanasia (from Greek eu, well, and thanatos, death), easy, painless death. This is here considered in so far as it may be artificially brought about by the employment of anaesthetics. When these last are of a character to deprive the sufferer of the use of reason, their effect at this supreme hour of human life is not viewed with approbation by the received teaching of the Catholic Church. The reason for this attitude is that this practice deprives a man of the capacity to act meritoriously at a time when the competency is most necessary and its product invested with finality. It is equally obvious that this space is immeasurably precious to the sinner who has still to reconcile himself with his offended God.
An additional motive assigned for this doctrine is that the administration of drugs of the nature specified is in the premises if not formally at all events equivalently a shortening of the life of the patient. Hence as long as the stricken person has as yet made no adequate preparation for death, it is always grievously unlawful to induce a condition of insensibility. The most that may be granted to those charged with responsibility in the case is to take up a passively permissive demeanor whenever it is certain that the departing soul has abundantly made ready for the great summons. This is especially true if there is ground for apprehending, from the dying person’s continued possession of his faculties, a relapse into sin. In no contingency, however, can any positive indorsement be given to means whose scope is to have one die in a state of unconsciousness. What has been said applies with equal force and for the same reasons to the case of those who have to suffer capital punishment by process of law.
JOSEPH F. DELANY