How Much Mercy is involved in “Mercy Killing?

Father Anthony Mellace


There are those who defend the practice of euthanasia (the preferred term is mercy killing or the now modern updated phrase of “comfort therapy”) using the following reasoning process:


a)     Why prolong the suffering of the patient if he is going to soon die anyway?

b)     The months that he will spend in the hospital by continued treatment to keep him alive will increase expensive medical costs and occupy the room and bed that someone else could use

c)     Poor patients cannot pay for the costly treatment and it is a waste to use it on someone who will die anyway. By eliminating the patient, there will be more treatments and medicine available that could effectively be used by another patient waiting for it.


The people who reason in this way tend to forget that life also possesses a deep spiritual meaning for the patient that they are unable to understand or fathom. The physical and mental anguish that a Christian patient goes through in a hospital has such wonderful spiritual value that it could literally pay for all his sins and free him from the horrors of purgatory. To kill him with the idea of cutting short his pain is just to reserve a worse suffering for him in the next dimension. This certainly is not to show mercy. The last moments of life are truly precious in the sense that they are really purifying. The saints tell us that one second spent in purgatory is worse than a hundred years of the sharpest pains on earth. This is worth meditating on when one is in his last final hours of life. As Christians, we are to do everything to alleviate a patient’s sufferings, but not to literally inject a fluid to end his life and think we have done him and society a service.


Second, the sufferings borne by dying patients could also be instrumental in the salvation of several souls who might need these graces. By cutting off the patient’s life, these lost sinners will not receive the graces of conversion. These souls could be the very nurses and doctors themselves who murdered their spiritual benefactor. Third, every second of our life is an opportunity to win a degree of happiness in heaven. A pure act of love made towards God advances us one degree in eternal glory. The mystics tell us that a degree of glory in heaven is equivalent to over a  hundred years of the greatest possible joys that one can experience on this earth. By reducing the life of a dying patient, one is robbing him of a greater happiness that he could gain in heaven. Fourth, many great men wrote some of their finest works at the moment of death. Jacques Maritain, in his last moments of life, composed a beautiful little work entitled “Commentary on the Canticle of Canticles”.  A most intelligent Catholic philosopher dictated his thoughts on the question of conscience while hooked up to a quantity of tubes in the emergency room. His secretaries jotted them down and they were the inspiration and textual words used in the II Vatican Council document on Conscience. Now if they had their lives ended, we would also lose all these priceless pearls of wisdom.


If families can’t afford to keep their dying members in a hospital, allow them to die peacefully at home. St. Joseph, according to the mystics, spent eight years agonizing with the whooping cough and pneumonia in his humble abode. Jesus and Mary practiced great patience and love toward this holy patriarch. Imagine all the ocean of graces that he gained for the world. Those who have eyes to see will know the wonderful mystery of God’s mercy shown at the last and precious moments of one’s life.


Father Anthony Mellace