A bill introduced in Peru to legalize euthanasia has met with harsh criticism from a cancer doctor who said that it fails to respect human life and dignity.
Dr. Luis Raez, director of the Memorial Cancer Institute (MCI) in Broward County, Florida, told EWTN News that although “de-penalizing euthanasia does not sound so bad,” what is really being sought is the legalization of murder.
“This attempt to legalize euthanasia will cause terrible harm to those who are ill,” warned Raez, who also serves as an associate professor at Florida International University.
The legislative proposal was entered for processing in the Peruvian Congress March 4, with the title “Law that de-penalizes mercy killing and that declares that the implementation of euthanasia is a need of the public and in the national interest.”
The document was signed by parliament members Roberto Angulo, Juan Pari, Eulogio Romero, Sergio Tejada, Esther Saavedra, Claudia Coari and Jorge Rimarachin.
Congresswomen Coari and Tejada have in the past voiced support for legalizing abortion as well.
The euthanasia bill is in the hands of the Constitution and Rules Committee and the Justice and Human Rights Committee for debate and a vote. If it passes this stage, it will be examined by the full Peruvian Congress.
Dr. Raez criticized the law, saying “it would be easy to stop defending human life or to begin to kill the sick to solve the problem of their illness, and all in the name of mercy.”
However, he warned, “When the patient is in pain or suffering from their sickness, he is not necessarily totally ‘free’ to make decisions.”
He explained that “there will be times” when the patient “will be depressed or will be suffering pain. Other times he will be confused by the symptoms of the illness or the medications.”
The cancer expert emphasized that “what is most important is that the patient is in the hands of the doctor, because many times the patient does not have a clear idea of what course his sickness will take, or what is going to happen, how long he is going to live, what the side effects are, or if his quality of life will be changed.”’
He stressed that this does not mean that patients must be given extraordinary treatment or treatment options that will do more harm than good.
“Nowadays in modern medicine there is palliative care and hospice, services that are available for very sick patients, that do not need or want aggressive treatments, and their caregivers treat them with much respect until the very day they die.”
Dr. Raez emphasized that “we have to be aware of the consequences of de-penalizing this law in Peru. It’s something that’s going to affect everyone.”
“Imagine if one of us were to have a traffic accident and we were lying prostrate with a ventilator and all of a sudden, motivated ‘by mercy’ the doctor who is treating us or some relative would decide to hasten our death and kill us?”
A similar case, he said, could come about with a sick person who falls into depression.
“Haven’t we heard very many times from friends or relatives the expression ‘I want to die?”, he asked, emphasizing that “it simply means, ‘please, help me’, and it is not the same as saying ‘please kill me’.”