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Spain: end-of-life document from bishops. “Sowers of hope. Welcoming, protecting and accompanying in the final stage” of life

Today in Madrid, the Spanish Bishops presented the document “Sowers of hope. Welcoming, protecting and accompanying in the final stage of this life”. The document, which is “the result of two years of joint work with the contribution of doctors, patients, family members and social workers”, intends to offer some “reflections drawn from experience” so as to “encourage debate on the issue and avoid ready-made answers”, Bishop Mario Iceta of Bilbao, president of the Episcopal Subcommittee for the Family and the Defence of Life, told the press. The 48-page document – the preface reads – intends to be “a pedagogical, easy reading for all”, which is why it is not “filled with references and footnotes”. The document provides an analysis of the “social debate on euthanasia, assisted suicide and a dignified death”: what underlies the debate and the arguments put forward by those who are in favour, which are refuted one by one. The paper also looks into the foundations of “Ethics in patient care: dignity, health, illness” (chapter II) and goes on to explain what palliative care is (chap. III), what are the rights of a terminally ill person, what are palliative pain relief and palliative deep sedation, and what to do if a patient is mentally incapable. A chapter in the Bishops’ document is devoted to “therapeutic obstinacy”, which is described as “unlawful”, and reasons are provided for why “euthanasia and assisted suicide are ethically unacceptable” (chapter V): by suppressing the life of a patient, “evil is chosen” instead of life which “is always good in itself”, and such a decision affects the doctor-patient relationship, the family, the medical practice, as well as society.

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