Chapter 29. Fifth Commandment: Promote the Culture of Life • 399
• Many physicians take the Hippocratic Oath, by which they commit
themselves to do no harm. The relationship between a physician and
a patient should be marked by compassion. Physicians should not
be the killers of their patients. It would perversely affect their self-
understanding and would reduce their desire to look for cures for
disease, if killing instead of curing were to become the option.
• We should not allow the elderly and infirm to be pressured to con-
sent to their own deaths by assisted suicide or euthanasia.
• We should protect the poor and minorities from exploitation. Pain
is a significant factor in the desire for physician-assisted suicide. The
poor and the minorities often do not have the resources for the alle-
viation of pain.
• We should protect all people with disabilities from societal indiffer-
ence, antipathy, and any bias against them.
• We should never present suicide as a socially acceptable solution to
The Pontifical Academy for Life on March 8, 1999, issued a state-
ment that included the following comments about euthanasia and the
alleviation of the pain of the dying:
With absolute conviction we vigorously reject any kind of eutha-
nasia, understood as recourse to those actions or omissions
which are intended to cause a person’s death in order to pre-
vent suffering and pain. At the same time, we want to express
our human and Christian closeness to all the sick, especially to
those who know they are approaching the end of their earthly
life and are preparing to meet God, our beatitude. We ask that
these brothers and sisters of ours be spared the “therapeutic
neglect” which consists in denying them the treatment and care
that alleviate suffering. Nor should this treatment and care be
lacking for financial reasons.
Greater efforts are being made today to provide patients whose
medical conditions cause great pain with medications or treatments
that relieve their suffering. People are being encouraged to use advanced
directives to make sure that medical treatment and end-of-life care is