A Swiss court has ruled that a Christian nursing home must either permit
assisted suicide on its premises or give up its charitable status.
The nursing home, which is run by the Salvation Army, the UK-based
Christian charity, lost a legal challenge to new assisted suicide rules.
The regulations, introduced about a year ago, compel charities caring for
the sick and elderly to offer assisted suicide when a patient or resident
The nursing home objected on the grounds that the law violated the core
religious beliefs of the Salvation Army and that it represented an affront
to freedom of conscience.
But the Federal Court rejected the complaint of the home, which is
situated in the canton of Neuchatel, and ruled that individuals have the
right to decide how and when they would like to end their lives.
According to a report on Swiss Radio In English, the judges said the only
way the home could avoid its legal obligations to permit assisted suicide
was to surrender its charitable status.
This would put the home outside of state control but it would also involve
the loss of state subsidies.
The case comes just months after a Catholic nursing home in Diest,
Belgium, was fined 6,000 euros for refusing the euthanasia of a lung
cancer sufferer on its premises.
Neil Addison, director of the Liverpool-based Thomas More Legal Centre,
said the two cases pointed to a “worrying” trend.
“The law across Europe and indeed the West seems to be saying that
organisations can’t have conscientious objection, but only individuals,”
“This is hitting at the very core of the religious hospitals and religious
institutions because in essence it is saying that those organisations, if
they provide services, can’t act in a religious way,” Mr Addison said.
“That seems to be where the law is putting itself these days.”
He continued: “It is very worrying because it will have the effect of
forcing religions back to do nothing else but offer worship and religious
services and will make the idea of religious charity very difficult.”
Mr Addison added that the conscience clause of the 1967 Abortion Act was
so inadequate that he foresaw similar problems arising in the UK if
assisted suicide was decriminalised in the future.
The St Augustine Rest Home was fined within six months of Archbishop Jozef
De Kesel of Mechelen-Brussels declaring that Church institutions would not
permit euthanasia “under any circumstance”.
A civil court in Louvain found that “the nursing home had no right to
refuse euthanasia on the basis of conscientious objection” when it refused
Mariette Buntjens, 74, her wish to die by lethal injection.
The Canadian Catholic bishops strongly criticised a euthanasia law which
came into force in Canada in June partly because it did not allow
individuals or institutions a right to object on grounds of conscience.
Within the last decade, the Catholic Church in England and Wales has given
up control of about a dozen adoption charities because it could not comply
with equality laws compelling them to assess same-sex couples as potential
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