Though euthanasia is "always wrong," stopping treatment for dying patients may be "permissible" in some cases, Pope Francis said Thursday, reaffirming Catholic Church views on difficult end-of-life decisions.
In a message to a Vatican-hosted World Medical Association conference on the topic, Francis clarified that the Catholic dogma on the sanctity of life does not justify the "overzealous treatment" of terminally-ill patients.
"Not adopting, or else suspending, disproportionate measures, means avoiding overzealous treatment - from an ethical standpoint, it is completely different from euthanasia, which is always wrong," the pontiff said.
"There is no obligation" to use "every possible remedy" for dying patients, and suspending or avoiding treatment can be "morally licit" and "responsibly acknowledges the limitations of our mortality, once it becomes clear that opposition to it is futile," Francis said.
However, since making such calls is always hard, there needs to be "a careful discernment of the moral object, the attending circumstances, and the intentions of those involved," and decisions "should be made by the patient if he is competent and able," the pope said.
"Within democratic societies, these sensitive issues must be addressed calmly, seriously and thoughtfully, in a way open to finding, to the extent possible, agreed solutions, also on the legal level," Francis concluded.