Friday, 27 June 2014



EUTHANASIA is back in the headlines after several high profile legal cases in various countries in Europe.

Like most other things in life the issue of euthanasia is NOT a black and white issue but an issue in which there are many shades of grey.

Intelligent and rational people and Christians know the difference between OBJECTIVE MORALITY and SUBJECTIVE MORALITY.

Objective Morality is about having a set of moral "norms" or beliefs in society as general guiding principles.

Subjective Morality is about applying those objective principles in individual circumstances and taking into account ALL the particular circumstances.

For instance most people agree that the principle THOU SHALT NOT KILL is a good principle. Indeed the basic right to life that we all have comes as near as you can get to a universally accepted moral absolute.

But we also agree that there can be exceptions to that moral absolute. For instance one can morally take a life in the case of self defence if the only way to save your own life is to save the life of your would be killer. Here the question of "proportional force" is in operation.

But those who say: "ONLY GOD CAN GIVE LIFE AND THEREFORE ONLY GOD CAN TAKE LIFE" are being overly simplistic and are showing moral a high level of moral ignorance.

For instance if a man rapes a woman and she conceives a baby as a result of that rape is that GOD "giving" life? Not so! At least not directly.

 But to move on to euthanasia. For myself, I do not envisage my considering it as an option for myself - but who knows how I would feel if I was terminally ill and in great pain and distress? Currently, my feeling for myself (and myself alone) would be that I would want to try to journey with Christ through my last illness and death. My life has been a many cornered journey with Him and I feel that my last illness and death will be the final stage of my spiritual journey. As soneone once cried out: "Do not deprive me of my death". Can I make it very clear that I apply these thoughts to myself and myself alone. I would not wish to impose my notion of life / death journey on anybody else.

I believe that euthanasia should be legal for those who wish it. I do not think that in a modern democracy anyone who is terminally ill should have to flee their own country to be allowed to die. 

Of course I believe that euthanasia has to be very carefully controlled. We do not want to see anyone feeling pressurured into euthanasia because they feel - or are made to feel - a burden on anyone else. Nor do we want relatives and others putting pressure on terminally ill people to opt for euthanasia so that they might get their "inheritance" more quickly.

The state must regulate euthanasia most carefully. Several independent medics should have to be involved. The state of mind of the patient wanting to embrace euthanasia would need to be firmly established. The doctors offering the services in compassion should be protected etc.

Can I also say that I have immense admiration for those involved in the hospice movement - many of whom oppose euthanasia.

And God? God suffers when his creatures suffer. God does not want or will suffering, pain and death. 

And personally I believe that God would have no issue whatsoever with a terminally ill patient freely deciding to go a little early to avoid pain, distress, deterioration, fear, panic or whatever. 

I have had to bring beloved pets for euthanasia. Why would I insist on my fellow human beings being forced to continue in a state of suffering and unbearable distress? 

As a priest I have sat with hundreds of people as they passed. I have never seen a horrific death. I have seen fear - a fear that eventually and quite quickly subsides and was comicly expressed by Woody Allen when he said: "I don't mind dying. I just don't want to be there when it happens". 

When people are dying most often the fear subsides, people drift into unconsciousness and pass away without knowing it. Sometimes this is all helped by the doctors administering increasing doses or morphine - which in itself is merciful and "creeping" euthanasia.  

The God of Love has no problem with us easing the pains of both the living and the dying - once our motivation is pure and our methods are transparent and honest.

May those who are dying today, as we consider this Blog, die holding the hand of someone who loves and cares.
+Pat Buckley



  1. Bishop Pat,

    A beautiful blog. My sentiments entirely.

    Nun and Hospice Nurse UK

  2. As a Catholic doctor I concur with what the good bishop has to say.

    We have been practising 3 monkey form of euthanasia with morphine and other drugs for a long time.

    We need openness and clarity.

    I wish other catholic bishops spoke as openly and honestly as this.

    Dr Tom

  3. Euthanasia is murder!

    Those who take part in it will spend eternity in Hell.

    Priest of Lancaster Diocese England

  4. The Government over here approved assessing people and giving them a guesstimate of how long they might live so as they know how much they should save or put into a pension to see them through. (I'm sure I heard this on the radio or TV). Something bothers me about this! Each person is unique. I would hate to think we could "measure the magic" out of life. The first person I annointed passed peacefully away about 10 minutes later as I heald her hand. Later I have seen people struggle who did not want to die. Of course we should ease suffering but I would hate to see this as an excuse to get rid of people who are seento be a waste of resources or in the way. Sean

  5. I am ashamed of the comment by the priest of the lancaster diocese. As a priest of another english diocese I roundly condemn his myopic and judgemental view which is totally contrary to the compassion shown by Christ and most recently and eloquently expressed by Pope Francis. Francis's by now world famous "who am I to judge?" response to being asked about gay relationships can equally be applied to this vexed question of euthanasia. For myself it is a simple decision about how I live my life. I make decisions every day and on all sorts of levels and why should that stop when it comes to how I live out my last days and in particular the choices I make before I become incapable of doing so? It is my firm intention, and I have left instructions to this effect with my solicitor, that should I develop any chronic incurable condition such as motor neurone disease, then I would wish to take active steps to end my life. This may be shocking to some, but I think that it is only when you have witnessed, as I have, painful, tortorous and horrendous death agonies, that you realise that no one; not pope, bishop, priest, doctor, has any right to say that a person should endure that. Would they endure that themselves, if that was to be their fate? English Diocesan Priest