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Top Vatican official reiterates opposition to euthanasia, favors 'living will'

VATICAN CITY (AP) The Vatican's top official for health issues reiterated the Catholic Church's strong opposition to euthanasia in an interview published Thursday, but said the church was in favor of allowing terminally ill patients to opt against aggressive treatment.

An Italian Senate committee has been hearing arguments over legislation to approve a living will, allowing people to decide in advance how they want to be treated if they become incapacitated in the last stages of a terminal illness.

Some politicians have viewed the measure with suspicion, warning that a living will could become a first step toward approving euthanasia.

Euthanasia is illegal in Italy, where the Catholic Church is politically influential. Euthanasia is forbidden by the Vatican, which insists that life must be safeguarded from its beginning to its ``natural'' end.

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan spoke in favor of a living will, telling Turin daily La Stampa that the Vatican opposed ``those useless and disproportionate treatments before the imminent death of the patient, which have as sole consequence prolonging the agony.''

He said that hydrating and feeding a terminal patient could not be considered aggressive therapeutic treatment.

``In no way, however, are we in favor of the idea of euthanasia, meaning that action, or omission, destined to cause the death of the patient,'' Barragan added.
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