Pope Francis to Belgian Catholics: Stop offering euthanasia

LONDON — Pope Francis has ordered a Belgian Catholic charity to stop offering euthanasia in its psychiatric hospitals.

In May, the Brothers of Charity group announced it would allow doctors to perform euthanasia at its 15 psychiatric hospitals in Belgium, one of only two countries — along with the Netherlands — where doctors are legally allowed to kill people with mental health problems, at their request.

To qualify, people must be in a state of ‘‘unbearable suffering’’ and at least three doctors, including one psychiatrist, must be consulted.


The charity said in a statement that euthanasia would only be performed if there were ‘‘no reasonable treatment alternatives’’ and that such requests would be considered with ‘‘the greatest caution.’’

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The Vatican press office said this week that the pope had asked the Belgians not to perform euthanasia.

The Catholic Church opposes euthanasia and the Holy See has begun investigating the decision to allow the procedure, which was made by the group’s lay board of directors.

The Belgian charity’s administrative headquarters in Rome issued a statement in May, arguing that allowing euthanasia ‘‘goes against the basic principles’’ of the Catholic Church.

associated press