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Vatican Conference Invites Promoters of Euthanasia

In just a few days, from 16 to 17 November, the newly reformed Pontifical Academy for Life will host a conference in Rome on the topic of “End-of-Life Questions.” (Nota Bene: the event is already closed.) One of the announced speeches’ title is: “Euthanasia in the Netherlands: Balancing autonomy and compassion.” As this title indicates, the message of this new Vatican event might well be more heterodox than loyal Catholics would desire. The World Medical Association is co-hosting this event. Significantly, the Pontifical Academy for Life itself has not yet advertised this upcoming conference on its website.

As the World Medical Association has announced, however, the Rome conference is meant to be a meeting of both proponents and critics of euthanasia:

The conference at the Vatican is being held jointly by the WMA [World Medical Association], the German Medical Association and the Pontificia Academia pro Vita. Dr. Frank Ulrich Montgomery, vice chair of the WMA, said the two-day event would include speakers from countries that support legislation on euthanasia and others that oppose physician participation in such practices. They will include leading medical professionals, legal authorities, experts in palliative care and medical ethics, theological scholars and philosophers. They will debate the different policies on these issues, explore patient rights and treatment limitations, and consider public opinion regarding end-of-life questions.

It is highly questionable for a Vatican conference to give such scope to supporters of euthanasia. As Giuseppe Nardi, the well-informed Vatican specialist at Katholisches.info, reported on 13 November, there will be speakers present who are supporting either euthanasia or the killing of the unborn. (The Italian Catholic website La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana has also reported on this serious matter.)

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia will open the conference. (Pope Francis himself will send a message to the audience.) Paglia will be followed by, among other speakers, René Héman, who is the President of the Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG). Héman is a strong defender of euthanasia, as is the Royal Dutch Medical Association itself. On the KNMG website, one can easily find their pro-euthanasia position. Two representatives of the KNMG published an article [PDF link] by the World Medical Journal  [scroll down to ‘publications’ on this page to see the link in context] last month with the title of Héman’s announced speech: “Euthanasia in the Netherlands: Balancing autonomy and compassion.” Even though this article is authored by other people, it is meant to be a preparation for this Rome event. The article promotes and defends the practice of euthanasia.

It seems the World Medical Association, which is at this point still publicly opposed to euthanasia, is in the process of reassessing its own current stand. Thus the Rome conference, as well as other additional events being held internationally. Therefore, the Vatican appears poised to give a platform to a deeply controversial discussion, and in so doing, may well give considerable attention to supporters of euthanasia.

René Héman, who will speak at the Rome conference, is not alone in his support of end-of-life clinics. In addition to other speakers such as Anne de La Tour, Stefano Semplici, and Heidi Stensmyren, the conference will also feature a speaker who is a member of Planned Parenthood. Dr. Yvonne Gilli, a member of the Green Party in Switzerland, will speak about “Assisted Suicide in Switzerland: Practice and Challenges.” Gilli is the President of the Council of the Swiss organization Sexual Health Switzerland (Sexuelle Gesundheit Schweiz) which is a member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

Another speaker, Professor Ralf Jox, of the Institute of Ethics, History and Theory of Medicine in Munich, is a medical doctor who also supports, according to Nardi, the idea of assisting people in their wish to die. He collaborated with colleagues in 2014 to bring about a law in Germany with that intention. He then said: “Anyone who is serious about protecting life must put in place rules for responsible assisted suicide.”

La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana also comments upon this new Vatican event, speaking of certain “diabolical positions” that will be presented, saying, as well, that “a great confusion is being fostered” concerning certain fundamental principles “that have to be defended without any compromise.”

In light of this upcoming conference as organized by the re-organized and reformed Pontifical Academy for Life (PAL) (which now has a defender of abortion as one of its members), the recently announced foundation of the new John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family (JAHLF) — founded by former PAL life member Professor Josef Seifert — appears all the more necessary as a counterbalancing force.

UPDATE: OnePeterFive was able to unofficially obtain the program of this Euthanasia Conference in Rome. We herewith post it as a whole:

_________________________________________________________

WMA European Region Meeting on End-of-Life Questions

16-17 November 2017

Aula Vecchia del Sinodo, Vatican

 Foreword

Welcome to the World Medical Association’s European Region Meeting on End-of-Life Questions, jointly organized by the Pontifical Academy for Life, the World Medical Association and the German Medical Association.

Many countries around the world have increasingly faced crucial policy debates about euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide and end-of-life issues in recent years. Life-saving improvements in medical technology and increasing life expectancy have brought these issues to the fore in the global medical profession, its representative organizations, and consequently the World Medical Association (WMA).

Given the range of approaches to these issues embraced by some of the 114 member organizations of the WMA, it is only natural for end-of-life questions to be actively explored and analyzed in the development of policy papers, as well as in the context of the WMA’s annual in-person meetings.

To build upon these vibrant discussions and lay bare the current state of debate in various parts of the world, the WMA, prompted by its Medical Ethics Committee, initiated a series of regional conferences to be held in cities on nearly all continents, including Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, and now, the Vatican City for the European region.

Here in this two-day conference in the historic Aula Vecchia del Sinodo, we will hear from medical professionals, legal authorities, experts in palliative care and medical ethics, theological scholars and philosophers who will share their insights on a broad spectrum of opinions on end-of-life issues from a uniquely European perspective.

In the spirit of openness, respect and exchange, we welcome you, the audience, to contribute your voice to this dialogue on one of the most deeply personal issues faced by medical professionals worldwide.

Prof. Dr Frank Ulrich Montgomery
President
German Medical Association

Msgr. Renzo Pegoraro
Chancellor
Pontifical Academy for Life

 

Day 1 – Thursday, 16 November 2017

08:15 Doors open for registration and admission – please arrive early to pass through security

Chair: Dr Ramin Parsa-Parsi, Head of the Department for International Affairs, German Medical Association

Chair: Dr Matilde Leonardi, Scientific Director, Coma Research Centre, Istituto Neurologico Carlo Besta, Milan

09:00 – 09:45 Welcome

WMA: Dr Yoshitake Yokokura, President, World Medical Association

GMA: Prof. Dr Frank Ulrich Montgomery, President, German Medical Association

Message from Pope Francis, delivered by one of his delegates

PAV: Archbishop Msgr. Vincenzo Paglia, President, Pontifical Academy for Life

09:45 – 11:00 I. Setting the stage: Three perspectives on end-of-life questions

End-of-life questions: Perspectives from the global medical profession

Prof. Dr Frank Ulrich Montgomery, President, German Medical Association; Vice-Chair, World Medical Association

Euthanasia in the Netherlands: Balancing autonomy and compassion

Dr René Héman, Chairman, Royal Dutch Medical Association

Assisted suicide in Switzerland: Practice and challenges

Dr Yvonne Gilli, Board Member, Swiss Medical Association

Immediate questions (to be continued in plenary panel discussion on Friday in session VIII)

11:00 – 11:30 Coffee break

11:30 – 13:00 II. Theological approaches

Suffering at the end of life. Christian references and their use.

Prof. Marie-Jo Thiel, Director, European Centre for Teaching and Research in Ethics, and Professor of Ethics and Moral Theology, University of Strasbourg

End-of-life questions from the Jewish perspective

Dr Riccardo Di Segni, Rabbino Capo, Comunità Ebraica di Roma

Ethical evaluation of end-of-life questions from the Islamic perspective

Prof. Dr Ilhan Ilkilic, Professor and chair of the Department of History of Medicine and Ethics, Istanbul University Faculty of Medicine

An Orthodox perspective on suffering at the end of life

Dr Daniela Mosoiu, Director for Education and National Development, Hospice “Casa Sperantei”

Discussion

13:00 – 14:00 Lunch

Chair: Dr Andrew Dearden, Treasurer and Council Member, British Medical Association

Chair: Prof. Dr Carlos Centeno, Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Clínica Universidad de Navarra

14:00 – 14:45 III. Delineating euthanasia and PAS in the systems of Common and Roman Law

Euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide and the common law

Prof. John Keown, Professor of Christian Ethics, Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University

Euthanasia and PAS

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Volker Lipp, Professor of Civil Law, Civil Procedure, Medical Law and Comparative Law, Georg-August-Universität, Göttingen; Member of GMA’s Central Ethics Committee

Discussion

14:45 – 15:00 IV. Guide on the decision-making process regarding medical treatment in end-of-life situations

Guide on the decision-making process regarding medical treatment in end-of-life situations

Dr Laurence Lwoff, Head of Bioethics Unit, Human Rights Directorate, Council of Europe

15:00 – 15:30 Coffee break

15:30 – 17:00 V. Compassionate use and conscientious objection

Is medical assistance in dying a platitudinous medical treatment?

Prof. Dr Leonid Eidelman, President, Israeli Medical Association

Conscientious objections in end-of-life care

Prof. Chris Gastmans, Professor of Medical Ethics, University of Leuven

Medical compassion at the end of life

Prof. Pablo Requena, MD, STD, Professor of Moral Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Delegate of the Vatican Medical Association to the WMA

Discussion

17:00 Closing

18:15 Tour of Vatican Museum (Meet at Sant’ Anne Gate), followed by Gala Dinner in the Vatican Museum

Day 2 – Friday, 17 November 2017

Chair: Dr Heidi Stensmyren, President, Swedish Medical Association

Chair: Prof. Stefano Semplici, Past Chair, UNESCO International Bioethics Committee
9:00 – 9:15 Welcome and recap of first day

Dr Otmar Kloiber, Secretary General, World Medical Association

9:15 – 10:15 VI. Is there a right to determine one’s own death?

Is there a right to determine one’s own death? – The ethical perspective(s)

Prof. Dr Urban Wiesing, Institute for Ethics and History of Medicine, University of Tuebingen

Right to live, right to die?

Prof. Dr Christiane Druml, Chairperson of the Austrian Bioethics Commission and UNESCO Chair of Bioethics at the Medical University of Vienna

On rights and risks: The case against physician assisted suicide and killing on demand

Prof. Dr Stephan Sahm, Director Medical Clinic I, Ketteler Hospital, Offenbach, Professor, Institute for History and Ethics in Medicine, Frankfurt University

Immediate questions (to be continued in plenary panel discussion in the afternoon in session

VIII)

10:15 – 11:00 VII. Treatment limitations vs. euthanasia. End stage decisions about medication, feeding and terminal sedation

Sedation, nutrition, hydratation at the end of life: How to decide?

Dr Anne de la Tour, President of the French Society of Palliative Care, Argenteuil

As in all other clinical situations: Choose effective treatment with minimal risks

Dr Gunnar Eckerdal, Dept. of Oncology, Sahlgrenska University Hospital

Discussion

11:00 – 11:30 Coffee break

Day 2 – Friday, 17 November 2017 [afternoon]

11:30 – 13:00 VIII. Dealing with public and published opinions

A patient’s perspective – First notes

Dr Marco Greco, President, European Patients’ Forum

The Finnish experience of the public debate

Dr Heikki Pälve, Past CEO, Finnish Medical Association

End-of-life and public discourse in democratic society

Prof. Ralf J. Jox, Institute for Ethics, History and Theory of Medicine, University of Munich; Geriatric Palliative Care, University Hospital Lausanne

Portraying assisted suicide and euthanasia

Baroness Ilora Finlay, Professor of Palliative Medicine, Cardiff University; Crossbench Peer, House of Lords

Discussion

13:00 – 14:00 Lunch

Chair: Dr Ardis Hoven, Chair of Council, World Medical Association

Chair: Prof. John Keown, Professor of Christian Ethics, Kennedy Institute of Ethics

14:00 – 15:30 IX. Is there a need to change policy? – Plenary panel discussion

Panelists:

Dr Yvonne Gilli, Board Member, Swiss Medical Association

Dr Matilde Leonardi, Scientific Director, Coma Research Centre, Istituto Neurologico Carlo Best, Milan

Prof. Dr Urban Wiesing, Institute for Ethics and History of Medicine, University of Tuebingen

Prof. Dr Stephan Sahm, Director Medical Clinic I, Ketteler Hospital, Offenbach, Professor,

Institute for History and Ethics in Medicine, Frankfurt University

Dr René Héman, Chairman, Royal Dutch Medical Association

Prof. Dr Frank Ulrich Montgomery, President, German Medical Association

15:30 Closing remarks

Archbishop Msgr. Vincenzo Paglia, President, Pontifical Academy for Life

15:35 Coffee and farewell

Please see here also now a link to the program on the WMA website.

The post has been updated, with an added link and additional information on the event.

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