Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 73(2) May 2023

Editorial - Assisted Suicide

Dr Pravin Thevathasan

Archbishop Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, is in the news again. Once again, it is for the wrong reasons. He has said that a law in favour of assisted suicide is "feasible". He is personally opposed to assisted suicide (23 April, Catholic News Agency).

A subsequent "clarification" from the Pontifical Academy for Life appears even more confusing. The "clarification" said that Archbishop Paglia is against assisted suicide but thinks it is possible to have a "legal initiative" that would allow assisted suicide to be decriminalised in Italy (24 April, Catholic News Agency).

What the President actually said is set out in, in this journal, in correspondence from the John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family. This Academy was founded by former members of the Pontifical Academy for Life who had been appointed by St John Paul II and who were dismissed by Pope Francis.

What Archbishop Paglia said was ““Personally I would not practice assisted suicide, but I understand that legal mediation can constitute the greatest common good concretely possible in the conditions in which we find ourselves.”. In other words, he has set the Church on a path that is, at best, neutrality on assisted suicide and is really, in fact, in support of it. And he is leaving the sick, the weak and the vulnerable without the support of Holy Mother the Church.

In all this, remember that the Pontifical Academy for Life is the Church’s official organ on matters of Life. Remember too that he has also publicly supported the abortion lows of Italy describing them as a “Pillar of Society”. When an interviewer asked Archbishop Paglia whether he intended to question Italy’s abortion law, he replied: “No, absolutely, absolutely!”

This support for the idea of assisted suicide is, therefore, a very grave development indeed. And it can be no surprise that members of the John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family have called for the resignation or dismissal of the Academy’s President.