Euthanasia and suicide

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By Arnold Van Vugt

The Living Spirit

Sunday, October 27, 2013

THESE are two different concepts but still closely related to each other.

Where lies the difference? The Tablet, a U.K. weekly magazine, of Oct. 5, 2013 had a news report saying that Fr. Hans Küng, the prominent and critical theologian of Vatican II, is considering suicide. I was shocked to read this because I can’t believe that Küng intends to do that. The report further stated that Küng has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. He is physically degenerating and expects soon to be blind and he can hardly manage to write by hand any longer.

Suicide means taking your own life or killing yourself. The sixth commandment says: thou shall not kill. It is a mortal sin to kill somebody but also to kill oneself. However, nobody in his right mind kills himself or commit suicide, he does that in a fit of insanity. So I don’t believe that committing suicide is a mortal sin. Even Judas, I believe was not condemned for hanging himself but that he betrayed Christ intentionally is something else. Only God knows how to deal with that.


During my seminary days I learned in moral theology that you might kill somebody in self-defense. Even that I doubt. Jesus did not do that with respect to the people who nailed him to the cross. He did not try to kill them. My interpretation would be: you may fight back against somebody who wants to kill you. I believe you even have the obligation to do that, to prevent somebody from killing you. In that case you may accidentally kill somebody, but you did not kill him intentionally. In legal terms they call that homicide.

Now coming back on the question of suicide or the morality of suicide, in medical terms there is such a thing as assisted suicide and what they call euthanasia. The last thing means mercy killing or painless killing.

Isn’t this a contradiction? You cannot kill somebody out of mercy. Another thing is whether a doctor must use extraordinary means in order to keep a dying patient alive. I don’t think that he has to do that but he must seek first the permission from the patient himself or when the patient is in coma or unconscious he has to seek the permission from the immediate relatives before he takes any action. Again, don’t call that killing; you allow the patient to die in peace and rest in peace in the arms of God.

The news report in The Tablet says that Hans Küng is seeking the help of doctors, not to take his own life but to allow him to die in peace. Hans Küng wrote his memoirs which were published on October 1 in German and entitled Erlebte Menschlichkeit (which roughly translates as ‘Humanity Experienced’). In the third and last volume he says: “I don’t want to go on existing as a shadow of myself. Human beings have a right to die when they see no hope of continuing to live according to their very own understanding of how to go on living in a humane way.”

In his native Switzerland suicide organizations can offer incurably ill patients lethal medication. The article continued to say that Küng was interviewed by the German daily Die Welt shortly before the book was published and Küng proudly showed his interviewers a handwritten letter from Pope Francis in Spanish thanking him for the two books Küng had sent him.

He also showed the envelope addressed to Küng in the Pope’s own handwriting with the Pope’s address and the simple letter F on the back of the envelope. He would be ‘happy’ to read Küng’s two books, Pope Francis wrote. It should be recalled that Küng was very critical toward the conservative delegates of the Vatican II Council. He even was rebuked by subsequent popes.

Considering all these things, I am sure that Hans Küng is seeking the help of doctors, not to take his own life but to allow him to die in peace and live his full humanity in heaven.

Incidentally, while I am writing this column our neighborhood is commemorating the death anniversary of a 15-year old boy who committed suicide six years ago. The boy was adopted, as a young child by a member of the UCCP while his mother was Catholic. The boy got confused because of this situation and felt insecure. He was even bullied sometimes by his classmates in school. That is why he committed suicide.

Unbelievable that a young boy can do that! His parents emigrated to the United States. They sent word to us to have apamisa said for him and during a block rosary in their house they commemorated the boy and they had some reflections on that tragic event.

Both euthanasia and suicide have mysterious connotations.


Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on October 27, 2013.


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