Sunday, 29 September 2013

Dignity SA Manipulates Pope's Words

Blessed Pope John Paul II
Dignity South Africa seems to know no bounds in its attempt to legalise euthanasia in South Africa. It seems it is not even beyond blatantly misleading those who visit its website by manipulating Catholic teaching it has posted there.

On its website, under the heading ‘The Religious Aspect’, Dignity South Africa provides what is allegedly an insight into various religious beliefs, including supposedly an insight into the teaching of the Catholic Church. They quote, or rather they claim to quote, the words of Blessed Pope John Paul II.

The first quote on the Dignity South Africa website is allegedly taken from the pope’s document, “Declaration on Euthanasia”:

To forego extraordinary or disproportionate means is not the equivalent of suicide or euthanasia; it rather expresses acceptance of the human condition in the face of death, or a wish to avoid the application of a medical procedure disproportionate to the results that can be accepted, or a desire not to impose excessive expense on the family or the community.

The quote is taken from chapter IV of the pope’s document “Declaration on Euthanasia”.  This chapter of the document deals specifically with the use of the various medical and other remedies that are available to a terminally ill patient.

Screenshot - Dignity SA Website - Sept. 29, 2013

Below is what Blessed Pope John Paul II really said, not what Dignity SA quotes: 

Therefore one cannot impose on anyone the obligation to have recourse to a technique which is already in use but which carries a risk or is burdensome. Such a refusal is not the equivalent of suicide; on the contrary, it should be considered as an acceptance of the human condition, or a wish to avoid the application of a medical procedure disproportionate to the results that can be expected, or a desire not to impose excessive expense on the family or the community. When inevitable death is imminent in spite of the means used, it is permitted in conscience to take the decision to refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted. In such circumstances the doctor has no reason to reproach himself with failing to help the person in danger.[i]

Dignity South Africa also has another quote regarding Catholic teaching on its website. It is again allegedly a direct quote of Blessed Pope John Paul II, this time apparently taken from Evangelium Vitae:

The removal of pain and consciousness by means of drugs, when medical reasons suggest it, is permitted by religion and morality to both doctor and patient, even if the use will shorten life.

Although Dignity South Africa claims that the above quote is directly from Evangelium Vitae, I was unable to find this quote at all in the 74-page document. The closest I came to anything resembling it in Evangelium Vitae was this: 

Pius XII affirmed that it is licit to relieve pain by narcotics, even when the result is decreased consciousness and a shortening of life, ‘if no other means exist, and if, in the given circumstances, this does not prevent the carrying out of other religious and moral duties’. In such a case, death is not willed or sought, even though for reasonable motives one runs the risk of it: there is simply a desire to ease pain effectively by using the analgesics which medicine provides. All the same, ‘it is not right to deprive the dying person of consciousness without a serious reason’: as they approach death people ought to be able to satisfy their moral and family duties, and above all they ought to be able to prepare in a fully conscious way for their definitive meeting with God.[iii]

It is clear, from a comparison of the two quotes used by Dignity South Africa to the actual words of the pope, that Dignity South Africa has manipulated the words of the pope or used the pope's words selectively.

Would one really want to put any trust into an organisation that condones behaviour like this? They are, after all, dealing with an extremely important subject - decisions about the end of life? It is not a game. Surely one wants to know that an organisation like this can be trusted to provide completely accurate information, not just information that suits its cause or information that has been manipulated or cherry picked to suit its cause.

Dignity South Africa wanted to introduce Catholic teaching to its site. It was their choice. So now, in accordance with this desire shown by them, Dignity SA should demonstrate its integrity and display on its website the correct quotes above, plus the links to the actual Catholic Church documents, which contain the real teaching of the Catholic Church regarding euthanasia. This would be a means for Dignity South Africa to make amends for what I hope was a mere oversight. 


[i] Pope John Paul II, Declaration On Euthanasia, #IV, Due Proportion In The Use Of Remedies, 1980
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, #65