Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, danger
ous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be le
gitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not
will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The de
cisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not,
by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and
legitimate interests must always be respected.
Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a
sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to al
leviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days,
can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as
either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable. Pal
liative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be
Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has
given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life.
We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor
and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the
life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.
Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human
being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to
the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it
unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other
human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide
is contrary to love for the living God.
If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an ex
ample, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scan
dal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.
Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear
of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of
the one committing suicide.
We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons
who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God
can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church
prays for persons who have taken their own lives.