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Roman Catholicism And End Of Life Care

The crossed keys of Saint Peter, a symbol of the Catholic Church. Courtesy WikiMedia Commons.
The crossed keys of Saint Peter, a symbol of the Catholic Church. Courtesy WikiMedia Commons

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that effective pain management is a critical component of appropriate end of life care (Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, 2009).

Pope Francis recently addressed the importance of palliative medicine– care designed to treat side-effects of both disease and aggressive treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation.

“I therefore welcome your scientific and culture efforts to ensure that palliative care can reach all those who need it,” Pope Francis told an assembly. “I encourage professionals and students to specialize in this type of assistance, which has no less value on account of the fact that it ‘does not save lives.’ Palliative care recognizes something equally important: recognizing the value of the person.”

The Church regards euthanasia as morally wrong, and has always taught the absolute and unchanging value of the commandment “You shall not kill” (BBC: Religion and Ethics).

“Euthanasia is a grave violation of the law of God, since it is the deliberate and morally unacceptable killing of a human person,” said Pope John Paul II (Evangelium Vitae, 1995). The Church regards any law permitting euthanasia as intrinsically unjust.

The Church also does not accept that human beings have a right to die and strongly opposes physician-assisted suicide, sometimes known as “Death with Dignity.”


The Catholic Church is the world’s largest Christian tradition, with more than 1.2 billion members worldwide. Nearly 2,000 years old, it is also one of the oldest religious institutions and played a prominent role in the development of Western civilization and culture.

The Catholic hierarchy is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the Pope. The Pope is elected by the College of Cardinals, and he is believed to be the rightful successor to Saint Peter, the first Pope appointed by Jesus Christ. Popes are believed to speak infallibly on matters of faith and morals.

St. Peter's Basilica, Rome. Courtesy WikiMedia Commons
St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome. Courtesy WikiMedia Commons

The Church teaches that it is the one true faith founded by Christ, and principal doctrines are expressed in the Nicene Creed (325 CE) and the Apostles’ Creed (390 CE), an early Christian statement based on the four Canonical Gospels, letters of the New Testament and the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible).

Sacraments are an essential component of Catholic liturgical worship. The principal sacrament is the Eucharist, commonly referred to as “the Mass.” The Church teaches that during this sacrament, bread and wine consecrated by a priest become the body and blood of Christ, a change referred to as transubstantiation.

Like other Christian traditions, Roman Catholics believe in the divinity of Christ, the son of God who came to earth to redeem humanity’s sins through His crucifixion, death and resurrection. The Church venerates Mary, the human mother of Christ, and teaches that through divine intervention she gave birth to him while still a virgin.

The Roman Catholic Church is the largest non-government provider of health care services in the world (Geopolitics, 2010).