Vatican Conference Invites Promoters of Euthanasia

By Maike Hickson,  November 14, 2017

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, 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: