By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
VIENNA (Worthy News) – Austria rang in the New Year with a law allowing assisted suicide to adults deemed to suffer too much to stay alive, despite opposition from church leaders.
Since Saturday, adults who are terminally ill or have a permanent debilitating condition can opt to make provisions for an assisted death.
Authorities say the practice is tightly regulated. For example, assisted suicide will be limited to terminally ill adults or those with a permanent debilitating condition.
Under the law, underaged children and people suffering from mental health issues can not access this option. Those seeking suicide will have to consult with two doctors about their case.
Depending on their condition, patients must wait between two and 12 weeks to reflect on their decision before they are allowed to access lethal drugs from a pharmacy.
Under the new law, which passed in December, it will still be illegal to assist someone else’s suicide actively. The legislation came into force on New Year’s Day despite fierce opposition from Austria’s Catholic bishops.
Austrian Archbishop Franz Lackner had warned that the law presents in his words “unacceptable flaws.”
The president of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference expressed concern that applicants for assisted suicide are only assessed by two doctors and not by an additional clinical psychologist or psychiatrist.
Archbishop Lackner warned that this makes assisted suicide a trivial medical prescription as it is virtually not prosecutable, despite such requirements by the Constitutional Court.
In a statement obtained by Worthy News, he noted that assisted suicide had become “standard practice” in countries where euthanasia was legalized.
Austria is now among several European countries that have legalized forms of assisted dying, including Belgium and the Netherlands,
France, Spain, and Switzerland.
Further away, Canada also expanded its law on the practice under certain circumstances. And in the United States, several states have “death with dignity statutes” that permit doctor-assisted deaths for terminally ill patients.
However, Austrian bishops view legalizing assisted suicide as part of a “cultural trend by which 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 “dying with dignity” surrounding the suicide law in Austria, a heavily Catholic nation.
They fear that the legislation will further contribute to an era where “every handicap or disease is seen as a failure that cannot be tolerated.”
Instead, they say additional financial resources should be made available for supporting the suffering and terminally ill patients.
Archbishop Lackner said Austria’s legislation ignores that every suicide remains a human tragedy and that every life is valuable.
He stressed the law is “unfair toward all those people who make it possible to die with dignity through reliable and attentive care and who will continue in the future.”
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