Colombian Bishops Threaten to Shut Down Hospitals

by Christine Niles  •  •  April 29, 2015   

The Catholic Church in Colombia will shut down all its hospitals if the government tries to force them to cooperate in assisted suicide

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The Catholic Church in Colombia will shut down all its hospitals if the government tries to force them to cooperate in assisted suicide.

That's the warning from the secretary of the Colombian Catholic Bishops' Conference after his country issued protocols for legal euthanasia last week.

Although assisted suicide was decriminalized in the South American country in 1997, the government offered no official protocol to regulate self-killing. But in a ruling earlier this year, the Constitutional Court ordered the government to issue regulations to clarify when hospitals, clinics, and doctors may administer fatal drugs to help patients end their lives.

Those regulations appeared April 20th, when the Health Ministry issued guidelines to physicians on when they can legally help patients kill themselves.

Before the guidelines, doctors often refused to help patients end their lives for fear of running afoul of the law, since no rules existed regulating the procedure. The new law now limits assisted suicide to terminally ill adults. The patient's request must first be approved by a panel consisting of an attorney, medical expert and mental health expert, who are given 10 days to approve or deny the request.

But the Catholic Church in Colombia has condemned the measures, saying euthanasia is “a grave attack against the dignity of the ill and against the sanctity of the basic right to life.” The bishops went on to chide the government: “It would be good, Mr. Minister, if your ministry, so interested in regulating euthanasia and abortion, put the same effort into finding an effective solution to the crisis in the health-care sector and the needs of the poorest.”

The secretary of the Colombian Bishops' Conference now says he will first appeal the protocols to national and international legal groups. If there is no response, “We will proceed to close all our hospitals if they insist on forcing us to kill.”

This move would be a major loss for Colombia, as the Catholic Church runs some of the best hospitals in the country.


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