Swiss Christian nursing home must allow assisted suicide

A Christian nursing home in Switzerland must allow assisted suicide or lose its charitable status

A Swiss court has ruled that a Christian nursing home must either permit assisted suicide on its premises or give up its charitable status. The nursing home, which is run by the Salvation Army, the UK-based Christian charity, lost a legal challenge to new assisted suicide rules. The regulations, introduced about a year ago, compel charities caring for the sick and elderly to offer assisted suicide when a patient or resident requests it. The nursing home objected on the grounds that the law violated the core religious beliefs of the Salvation Army and that it represented an affront to freedom of conscience. But the Federal Court rejected the complaint of the home, which is situated in the canton of Neuchatel, and ruled that individuals have the right to decide how and when they would like to end their lives. According to a report on Swiss Radio In English, the judges said the only way the home could avoid its legal obligations to permit assisted suicide was to surrender its charitable status. This would put the home outside of state control but it would also involve the loss of state subsidies. The case comes just months after a Catholic nursing home in Diest, Belgium, was fined 6,000 euros for refusing the euthanasia of a lung cancer sufferer on its premises. Neil Addison, director of the Liverpool-based Thomas More Legal Centre, said the two cases pointed to a “worrying” trend. “The law across Europe and indeed the West seems to be saying that organisations can’t have conscientious objection, but only individuals,” he said. “This is hitting at the very core of the religious hospitals and religious institutions because in essence it is saying that those organisations, if they provide services, can’t act in a religious way,” Mr Addison said. “That seems to be where the law is putting itself these days.” He continued: “It is very worrying because it will have the effect of forcing religions back to do nothing else but offer worship and religious services and will make the idea of religious charity very difficult.” Mr Addison added that the conscience clause of the 1967 Abortion Act was so inadequate that he foresaw similar problems arising in the UK if assisted suicide was decriminalised in the future. The St Augustine Rest Home was fined within six months of Archbishop Jozef De Kesel of Mechelen-Brussels declaring that Church institutions would not permit euthanasia “under any circumstance”. A civil court in Louvain found that “the nursing home had no right to refuse euthanasia on the basis of conscientious objection” when it refused Mariette Buntjens, 74, her wish to die by lethal injection. The Canadian Catholic bishops strongly criticised a euthanasia law which came into force in Canada in June partly because it did not allow individuals or institutions a right to object on grounds of conscience. Within the last decade, the Catholic Church in England and Wales has given up control of about a dozen adoption charities because it could not comply with equality laws compelling them to assess same-sex couples as potential adopters.


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Written by Raphael Benedict

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