THE P RTAL August 2011 Page 10 “Do not be afraid!” by Dr Clare D Walker President Catholic Medical Association (UK) “Do not be afraid!” The exhortation used so many times by the late Pope John Paul II could not be more apt today in Britain in 2011. Christian healthcare professionals working in the NHS increasingly speak of a pervasive atmosphere of fear and uneasiness should they or colleagues holding various belief systems dare to question uncritical worship at the altar of secularism as expressed in clinical care. Fear, courage, and heartbreak In recent months, many readers will have experienced fear and courage, heartbreak following the loss of deep relationships in no way assuaged by the beginnings of new friendships and those moments of panic on trying to find a foothold - whether spiritual or financial - in new territories. It is tempting to ask God for peace, for certainty and for one challenge at a time! After the ‘highs’ of the honeymoon period dissipate, family and professional life may demand responses to difficult situations for which euthanasia is increasingly promoted in the public sphere as the only answer. There is much confusion in the media about terminology surrounding assisted suicide and various types of euthanasia. terminology of euthanasia Assisted suicide may include providing encouragement, technical advice or the objects and medicines necessary to allow another person to end their own lives effectively. Voluntary euthanasia must first include the freely expressed wish of a competent person to have their life ended by another. For such freedom to exist, in some countries where euthanasia is legally tolerated, the person must be fully informed about possible alternatives to premature death as an end to current or imminent physical, spiritual or psychological suffering. Non-voluntary euthanasia involves others ending the lives of individuals or specific groups of people who are non-competent, for example; incapable of asking for death. Involuntary euthanasia is defined as the deliberate ending of the life of an competent individual who has either made known their opposition to this in the past or has simply not been consulted. Active euthanasia requires a specific act designed to end the life of another. Passive euthanasia still ensures the ending of another person’s life but does so by omitting a action, predicting that such an omission would be the means which would kill them and deliberately choosing such an omission to result in death. An Advance directive may involve the advance refusal of certain types of treatment for conditions which the individual usually does not suffer from at the time of writing the advance directive. Since many people change their minds regarding what would make their lives unbearable in years to come, the provision of an advance directive may place others in a very difficult position. There may be a sharp difference between what a person told friends or family were their priorities and wishes in the event of becoming incompetent and the attitudes documented by a much younger, more robust individual. Whilst many advance directives, if published for public use by pro-euthanasia organisations, are designed to promote euthanasia, the attitude of those who have signed such a legally binding document is not always pro-euthanasia. Their motivation may be wanting only medical treatment which is appropriate for the individual at the end of their lives. Looking up the small print on any advance directive will inform readers about the motivation of the group going to such trouble to ensure we all sign one. In some cases, the wording is such that individuals are signing up to non-voluntary euthanasia in advance.