Not unexpectedly, there have been a number of significant statements made in the past two days about the Englaro case. I will translate a few of them, beginning with this interview with Cardinal Bagnasco.
'Eluana's life does not
belong to the courts -
let us pray and hope'
by Luigi Accattoli
ROME - "Eluana is still alive' and "Life is never at our disposal", says Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian bishops' conference, who in this interview, points out two urgent matters: for Christians, prayer "so that hope may prevail even in this difficult moments"; and for civilian society, a law which affirms and defends 'the indisposable value of life".
Because, he says, to undermine that principle would be equivalent to 'poisoning social coexistence' and taking one step towards 'a dishuman society'.
The cardinal denies that there has been a 'clash' between the Church and the Englaro family: "Nothing of the kind. We do have sincere closeness to the sorrow of a family that has been so severely tried. The sisters at the Talamoni clinic who have lovingly taken care of Eluana for years are a sign of this closeness. At this time, those nuns have declared they are ready to 'continue serving Eluana today and in the future', that they ask for nothing in return except silence and the freedom to love and give to those like Eluana who are defenseless. Their closeness and their wish is also that of the Church."
Eminence, in cases like these, does not Church teaching risk 'violating' the sensibility of the persons involved? Would more discretion not be better?
Discretion does not mean indifference. Eluana, like the thousands of persons who live the same condition she does, affects us very closely, and this is an occasion that calls for material and spiritual solidarity with such patients and their families.
I know from personal experience - even if the clinical circumstances are quire different - because for years, I had to take care of my mother who was immobilized and no longer self-sufficient, so I know what it means.
And yet Eluana is not dead already. Neither does she live in a grey zone between life and death. She is alive, and life is never ours to dispose of. Not by anyone. So I believe that at this time it is important to pray, as the nuns of Lecco have said, 'to invoke our Lord Jesus so that hope may prevail in this difficult time when hope seems impossible'.
What do you say of the role that has been played in all this by doctors, magistrates and politicians?
It is not for me to judge anyone. But I must note that imperceptibly a relativist mentality is spreading which presents itself in the guise of being good sense and the 'humane' thing to do, but which in reality erodes the principle that is at the basis of human coexistence, and that is, that life is not disposable.
If this happens, it is not only religious principle or moral tradition that is undermined - the very air we breathe becomes poisoned. Reciprocal trust will be even more difficult, and fatally, social coexistence itself.
The law governing 'end of life' issues that you said last September you are hoping for - is that relevant now?
Those who now say that such a law has now been made superfluous are the very same ones who until recently were clamoring for it. But in the light of the Milan court ruling last July on Eluana, which the Cassation Court has effectively upheld, it is clear there must be appropriate legislation.
To decide on this most sensitive frontier of existence, the word must now come from those who were elected by the people to make the law and who have the responsibility to promote a social coexistence that is ever more worthy of man, of all and of everyone.
They must know by experience that at the basis of a society that is truly human, there cannot be anything other than the indisposability of human life, even and especially in its weakest, most vulnerable forms. They particularly need, from all of society, special care, protection and accompaniment that is replete with professionalism but also with affection.
So, if the concept of existence will depend exclusively on its efficiency and usefulness, then we are headed for a dishuman society.
What do you think the law should provide for?
Outside of the technical aspects which do not concern the Church, I would say absolute certainty of any 'end of life' declaration made by the patient, the responsibility of doctors with respect to the patient, and a clear distinction between treatments and vital support functions such as alimentation and hydration which are normal necessities for any living person.
This commentary by a layman is very powerful and well-informed.
Once she stops getting
food and water,
Eluana becomes a terminal case
by Carlo Meroni
Nov. 15, 2008
“Roma locuta, causa finita”. Rome has spoken, the case is closed.
With two statements of 'judgment' worthy of Pontius Pilate, the Court of Cassation has definitively closed off the two ways - parliamentary and judicial - along which it had been sought to avoid the death of Eluana Englaro by euthanasia.
A judgment which was taken without even entering into the merits of the case, but hiding behind the supposed inadmissibility of the Milan prosecutor seeking recourse from the country's highest appeals court, because, they claim, the question is particularly subjective about an individual person, and therefore, not affecting the public interest.
Who could 'celebrate' in the face of such a defeat? Who can sincerely maintain - without trotting out Vatican interference and the usual amenities - to support death rather than life? Who can love death more than life?
Perhaps the only satisfied person in all this is poor Beppino Englaro, who has finally seen victory for his cause after years of fighting for it. But at what cost? To be 'rid' of a comatose daughter?
I hope and pray that Signor Beppino, after having seen his motives recognized as plausible, can now set aside the bureaucratic verdict and take the time to look into the eyes of his daughter.
I hope and pray that, with a sensible mind, even if he has gained authorization (which does not oblige him in any way to carry it out) to stop the feeding and hydration of his daughter, he may change his mind (along with his wife, mother to Eluana) and decide to continue feeding her just as he and her mother fed her when she was a baby, and as she has been fed since her accident since in her condition, she cannot hold a spoon to feed herself.
"My daughter's life is hell, and I want to liberate her". These were the words of Mr. Englaro. Allow me to raise some questions? Who can tell if Eluana is in a condition of 'hell', when there are persons - fully able and of whole mind - who harbor in their hearts the real hell of hatred and envy and arrogance and rancor?
And what if Eluana is in a condition of peace that none of us is capable of imagining? What if her situation could be a key that will save the lives and/or lead to the rehabilitation of others like her? I believe hell is to be found so much more in the hearts of men than in a hospital bed or even in the suffering of a family with a critically ill member.
I pray and hope that Eluana's parents may have the kindness, the love, the will and the strength to follow their particular Calvary to its natural end, compassionately embracing their silent helpless child, and abandoning themselves trustingly to the will of Someone greater than we, greater than our human powers, greater than any Court of Cassation.
This is my subjective hope, because obviously I cannot judge the pain of a family who has seen a daughter in vegetative state for 17 years now.
But what bio-juridical and bio-ethical repercussions to the life of us all, could a verdict like that of the Court of Cassation produce?
Is this our Western civilization, is this progress, when a court can decide who is worthy to live or not? Italy has been the nation that pushed a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty at the United Nations - and now, this is what we show the world? To kill someone not because she has committed a crime but because she is totally helpless
And how does one reconcile this verdict on Eluana with the United Nations convention on the rights of disabled persons? Signed by Italy in 2006, the convention provides that "those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual and sensory deficiencies" must be guaranteed "protection against discriminatory refusal of medical assistance, health care and services, and food and water, because of their specific disability".
It is obvious that the Court of Cassation was unaware of this convention, or has chosen to ignore Article 25 which provides for the above.
But I do not wish to indulge in legal quibbling. I am more interested in convincing the reader that, setting aside the situation of poor Eluana, the situation is grave indeed, because once more a diabolical and perverse manipulation of facts is under way.
It is deliberate on the part of the communications media which believes it must indulge what it thinks the consumers want. And it seems that today, people want to read newspapers and magazines and watch TV shows for tips on how to live beyond 100 years old, to make love after 80, to have a 20-year-old's skin when one is three times as old, and similar 'super-human' things.
It is as though sickness, suffering, aging, and death, are no longer part of human life. We want to sweep them under the rug as unpleasant facts that should never bother us again. It is sheer delusion.
But the mass media feed this perverse appetite, and so, in the face of a tragedy like Eluana's, they offer the public the fig leaf of apparent good sense that, who knows, may one day soon be useful to us in order to hasten the death of an old, sick and disabled parent whose existence has become too much of a burden for us and impedes us from gratifying activities that we cannot think of giving up for the sake of anyone.
This is the only effort that man today appears ready to make: whatever serves his self-gratification. That is why he works and sweats - to afford status symbols, to achieve maximum physical 'fitness', to be 'well off' in all the physical and material aspects.
But to exert oneself for a sick person who will never get better, only worse? What a waste of time! Everyone must die, after all, sooner or later. And so, modern man deludes himself that in some cases, homicide is an act of pity that can make us all feel better and free of any burden on our conscience.
We have all been carried away by a tsunami of selfishness. Otherwise, how to explain that many people appear to give credit - and claim it as their own thinking - to the countless platitudes we have been reading and hearing in the major newspapers and on TV about how it has all turned out well for Eluana!
As with abortion - which was first introduced legally only for pregnancies resulting from rape or with known severe malformations due to drugs ingested by the mother, then became accepted as the usual method to get rid of unwanted pregnancies - does not the Englaro verdict open the way for legalized euthanasia in Italy?
The hope is that Parliament will want to find a common and shared consensus soon in order to legislate against the introduction of any form of euthanasia, passive or active, into our society.
Because that is what the judgment means for Eluana: euthanasia, pure and simple. At least, let us call things by name.
Eluana is not in coma, as many have written. She is not attached to any machine or automatic respirator (as was Piergiorgio Welby). There is nothing to unplug, no medicine to stop, and her condition is not at all a terminal pathology such as cancer or similar lethal diseases.
What she does have is extreme disability due to impaired consciousness following a car accident. But no one knows or can know what is taking place in her mind - whether behind those eyes that seem to recognize and acknowledge the sisters who have been caring for her for 14 years, her brain is able to generate any feeling or sensation.
As reported about various experiences with patients in 'La Casa dei Risvegli Luca De Nigris' [Luca de Nigris House of Awakening) in Bologna (www.amicidiluca.it), persons in Eluana's condition can show - upon appropriate stimuli - levels of consciousness that were previously unimaginable.
Eluana is very much alive, so far. She has always breathed on her own without problems. Like all of us, she sleeps at night and wakes up in the morning. Her menstrual cycles come regularly, and a few weeks ago, her body recovered spontaneously from an unexplained uterine hemorrhage.
Yes, she is fed and given water through a feeding tube, since she cannot use her hands. But this is something done with babies in incubators, and with patients in advanced stages of Parkinson's or Alzheimer's, and in the more complex cases of multiple sclerosis. Should they all be put to death
Nor is there any such thing as 'therapeutic obstinacy' in Eluana's case, for the simple reason that she has not had any therapy at all. She has simply been fed and given water.
But now, if her father decides to take away the feeding tube, it is not going to be a 'sweet death' nor 'an alleviation of her suffering'. Because then, her tragedy enters its final act.
Since she is young (as was Terry Schiavo), it is expected that she would die of cardiac arrest after at most 18 days without water. In fully conscious persons, such a death would mean atrocious agony. And so, according to the earlier court's ruling, in order to prevent any such suffering - but did not the court presume that Eluana is totally unconscious? - she is to be heavily sedated.
It would be useful, as the Associazione Scienza e Vita suggested, that since this is a death sentence, one might emulate what happens with death convicts in the United States, where witnesses to the execution are required and the execution itself is filmed for posterity.
Because in this case, a film or video would record for future generations the great regression of post-modernism in which all shame is covered up by the shibboleth of 'self-determination'.
Which in the case of Eluana is very disputable. Yet the courts relied greatly on alleged reconstructions of comments she made when she was her normal self [and unaware she would ever be involved in the situation she's in now].
And so, our society has come to this:
A judge can decide who is worthy to live and who should die.
Doctors, whose professional oath and code of ethics binds them to keep persons alive and not to take away any life, can now decide to administer death to their patients.
Hospitals are no longer just places where one goes to be cured, but where one may be put to death!
I like to think, of course, that natural death is not the end of the road for man, but the intermediate stage towards a far greater destiny. Thinking of Eluana, I am reminded of Christ's warning in Chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew:
"Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink..."
Each one does as he believes. With my poor secular conscience, I choose 'veluti si Deus daretur' - to live as if God does exist.
And from the ever reliable and sensible Marcello Pera:
The spirit of the times
by MARCELLO PERA
The Eluana case is not a judicial one, therefore there is no reason for it to come under the competence of the higher levels of the judicial system.
Nor was the verdict juridical because the highest appellate judges did not rule on its merits and sent the ball back to where the lower courts had left it, as did the Constitutional Court.
It is not a political case either, except in the sense that nature abhors a vacuum, and since Parliament has not provided for such a case, some other organism has intervened.
But it is a cultural case. The judges in Milan's appellate court and those at Cassation did not consult the codes of law at all. What they did was to listen to 'the spirit of the times'. A spirit which is blowing in their direction.
Years and years of individualism, hedonism, nihilism, relativism and utilitarianism prepared the ground for that verdict. And since these judges have a keen nose - so keen that sometimes they even anticipate the wind - they decided in the way that a great part of the Western world now feels and desires.
But they did achieve one thing - which has occurred so many times in the West in the recent past, and which judges consider they have the power to do - namely, to transform the tendencies and thinking of some militant people into a universal right!
So now, they have effectively allowed the right to euthanasia, active or passive, in Italy. Passive, for now, because they have allowed that those who no longer have any expectation of a 'decent' life (whatever they mean by that) stop being fed.
But active shortly, because it won't be long before whoever has requested and obtained the right to end his life will also ask and obtain the right to be given some medication that will allow him not to feel the agony of death that results from dehydration and lack of sustenance.
There appears to be no longer any good that must be protected for itself. If, as the exponents of utilitarianistic bioethics maintain, the definition of 'good' is 'whatever is good for me' (singular or as a group) - whatever is useful to me according to my autonomous decision which no one has a right to criticize - then even life becomes just an instrument for every person's individual motives.
The prosecutor of the Court of Cassation certainly caught the utilitarianistic wind when he decided that the Milan prosecutor had no business presenting the case to the highest appeals court of the land because the case is 'private' and there is 'no public interest to protect'.
And thus, what is good - ethics - becomes something private, which means every individual can do as he pleases, and no one can criticize what he chooses to do. Good in itself, independent of what individuals think is good, no longer exists.
Next thing, philosophers will say "Ethics has no truths", "Goodness has no basis", "Value judgments are only subjective". And don't all the newspapers now write that we should respect the decisions of others whatever those decisions may be; that we should listen to science; that we should be open and tolerant and respectful of all customs, all cultures, all decisions made by individuals or groups?
Does not TV preach to us all at dinnertime to make sure we don't miss the issue of the day, in this case, making sure we don't miss their subtext - 'It's better this way for Eluana and her family' - as this wise and reputable doctor says, as this or that family would want if they ever faced the same situation, as this politician preaches?
And if anyone - a believer, a priest, the Pope, or some average Joe Catholic - raises his voice againt this euthanasia by verdict, surely he will be told that he should keep his religion private and that the Church has no business 'interfering'.
A society that loses a sense of the sacred, of the limits beyond which one cannot go, of prohibition in some essentials, of duty beyond one's own personal convenience, thinks it is open and democratic; in fact, it thinks it is liberal.
It does not realize that it is, on the contrary, despotic, and is digging its own grave. It does not understand that today it may be you, tomorrow it will be someone else, and that if life is just an instrument for one's own ends, then someone will arrogate unto himself the right to someone else's life and will employ whatever is necessary to master and use that life as he wants to, depending on whether today what prevails is a presumptuous elite, a helpless majority, or an ethical dictator.
These things have happened before. What is to keep them from recurring? That we are blinded by tears whenever we remember the victims? No, those tears today are ceremonial tears, obligatory tears, emotion on demand. So they are good for the moment only. And after all, if everyting is private and subjective, then good and evil are simply emotions that can be summoned at will.
The judges in the Englaro case yielded easily, even complacently, to this idea of moral good without any foundations, but the people, fortunately, can still react properly.
Even in California, that vast supermarket of ethics to order, the voters said no to a decision that judges like ours had taken with their noses to the wind. The same progressive voters who went overwhelmingly for Obama also said in a referendum on same-sex marriage that the nature of matrimony is not something that can be defined by a judge, even if in their case, by the State Supreme Court.
The Eluana case is similar. If public opinion could react, if it can have the strength to reverse the ethical relativism which is seducing them and making them 'soft', if they can raise their voices and will be allowed to do so, then the sacredness of life, the dignity of the human being, will return to being values in themselves, public assets to be protected.
When this happens, then the judges will notice a new cultural atmosphere and will behave accordingly. But we must fight for that day to come. We must defeat the spirit of the times with the sport of humanity.