Euthanasia Stance Affirmed in Mexico

By Catherine Bremer
Saturday, July 9, 2005

CUAUTITLAN IZCALLI, Mexico -- Mexico's Roman Catholic bishops this week said there was no such thing as a right to death, responding to pressure from some lawmakers, doctors and academics who are urging a national debate on euthanasia.

The Mexican Bishops' Conference, representing about 120 bishops, is seeking a law that would protect life "from the moment of conception until natural death."

"Today we have numerous methods of strengthening human capacities and reducing physical pain.

"We cannot intervene for anybody's death, even in extremely painful situations," said Bishop Francisco Javier Chavolla, who leads the Diocese of Toluca near Mexico City.

"The right to death does not exist," he said at a news conference at the end of the bishops' general assembly.

Euthanasia is not allowed in Mexico, the second-biggest Catholic nation after Brazil. About 85 percent of Mexicans are Catholic.

The Mexican church, following the Vatican line, said that helping anyone to end a life is wrong and that terminally ill people should be encouraged to fight on.

Rodrigo Aguilar, bishop of Matehuala, referred to Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman who provoked an international uproar when her husband had her feeding tube removed against the wishes of her parents and the Vatican.

"Terri Schiavo was a human being and should have been treated with dignity. Her death was provoked," Aguilar said.

"We must respect and defend human life."

Regarding the other end of the life cycle, the bishops said they were concerned about human embryos being treated like merchandise and kept in refrigerators for research using embryonic stem cells.

Mexico has kept the church and state strictly separate since its 1910 revolution. But the clergy's clout has increased under Vicente Fox, a conservative and committed Catholic who is the first Mexican president to kiss a papal ring.

At the conference, the bishops said homosexuals suffer from a "disorder," and criticized Spain for legalizing same-sex marriages last month.

"The church loves homosexuals like it loves all its children, but we must show them how to behave. Their behavior should be different," Chavolla said.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company