Colombia bishop: If they force us to kill, we will close our hospitals

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A top Colombian archbishop warned that if the country's government persists in forcing Catholic hospitals to start practicing euthanasia on patients, the Church will close all its health centers.

Bishop Juan Vicente Cordoba Cordoba – head the Colombian Catholic bishops' conference – vowed that the bishops would appeal to “national and international legal institutions and if we don't get answers on euthanasia, we will proceed to close all our hospitals if they insist on forcing us to kill.”

The statement was issued to local newswire Colprensa and picked up by the Colombian newspaper El Universal de Cartagena.

In March this year the Constitutional Court of Colombia ordered the Department of Health by means of a “tutela” – emergency legal action – to approve the protocol allowing euthanasia in the country. The same court that approved the legalization of abortion in 2006 and since then has sought to eliminate a doctor's right to conscientious objection.

Alejandro Gaviria, Colombia's Secretary of Health, followed up April 19 by signing the protocol for allowing euthanasia, thus de facto legalizing it.

In a recent communique sent to the Secretary of Health, Father Pedro Mercado Cepeda, deputy secretary of the local bishops' conference, criticized the resolution as it “gravely  undercuts the sacred constitutional rights of religious freedom and freedom of conscience.”

It also disregards “the ethical and moral obligations of Catholic health institutions and their personnel (or those belonging to other religious faiths),” he added, “by not fulfilling that (constitutional) standard as regards reasons of conscience or religious identity, ethical or moral.”

Some of the largest an d the most safe and reliable medical centers in Colombia are run by the Catholic Church, including the University Hospital of Saint Ignatius in the nation’s capital.

As posted on the CEC website, Bishop Cordoba criticized the actions of the Constitutional Court and the Department of Health, since “the government does not have the jurisdiction to make these regulations.”

“There's the first juridical error, and not from the point of view of faith or the Gospel, the court does not make laws, nor is it in their jurisdiction to regulate a department of the government. Only the Congress of the Republic makes laws. They took an unconstitutional shortcut, and we cannot accept it from a juridical point of view,” he stated.

Additionally the Colombian bishop urged the Secretary of Health to “instead of legislating for ‘death with dignity,’ focus on better health care for patients in Colombia.”

You cannot legislate on euthanasia “without having a dialogue, and without representation from the people,” the bishop said, denouncing the legal moves as “unconstitutional.”

Bishop Cordoba emphasized that although “we are sons of (i.e. citizens) of the State, nevertheless on this point it’s our responsibility to define ourselves because there are values that are non-negotiable.”

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