A controversial law allowing assisted suicide has come into force in Austria despite opposition from Catholic bishops in Austria.
Jan 03, 2022
Austrian bishops opposed the new legislation
By Stefan J. Bos
The new year began in Austria with an offer of assisted suicide to adults deemed too in pain to stay alive.
Authorities say the practice is strictly regulated. Assisted suicide will be limited to terminally ill adults or those with a permanently debilitating illness.
Under the law, underage children and people with mental health issues cannot access this option.
Those seeking suicide will need to see two doctors about their case.
Depending on their condition, patients may have to wait between two and 12 weeks to think through their decision before being allowed access to lethal drugs at the pharmacy.
Under the new law, which passed in December, it will still be illegal to actively help someone kill themselves. The legislation came into effect on New Year’s Day despite fierce opposition from Catholic bishops in Austria.
Austrian Archbishop Franz Lackner warned that the law presented “unacceptable flaws” in his words.
The president of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference expressed concern that candidates for assisted suicide are only assessed by two doctors and not by a clinical psychologist or additional psychiatrist.
Archbishop Lackner has warned that this makes assisted suicide an insignificant medical prescription because it is practically non-prosecutable, despite such demands from the Constitutional Court.
He noted that assisted suicide had become common practice in countries where euthanasia was legal.
Austria is now one of several European countries that have legalized forms of assisted dying, including Belgium and the Netherlands, France, Spain and Switzerland.
Further, Canada also broadened its law on practice in certain circumstances. And in the United States, several states have “death with dignity laws” that allow physician-assisted death for terminally ill patients.
Lamentable cultural trend
However, the Austrian bishops see the legalization of assisted suicide as part of a “cultural trend that the only form of life worth living is a full and active life”.
The bishops condemned what they saw as the manipulative nature of the words “die with dignity” surrounding the suicide law in Austria, a strongly Catholic nation.
They fear that the legislation will further contribute to an era where “every disability or disease is seen as a failure that cannot be tolerated”.
Support for end-of-life care
Instead, they say additional financial resources should be made available to support suffering and terminally ill patients.
Archbishop Lackner said Austrian law ignores that every suicide remains a human tragedy and that every life is valuable.
He stressed that the law is “unfair to all those people who allow death with dignity through reliable and attentive care and who will continue in the future”.–Vatican News