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Pope Rules Patients in Permanent Vegetative State May Not be Denied Artificial Nutrition and Hy...
LifeSiteNews.com ^ | September 14, 2007 | John-Henry Westen

Posted on 09/15/2007 8:37:24 PM PDT by monomaniac

Pope Rules Patients in Permanent Vegetative State May Not be Denied Artificial Nutrition and Hydration

Response to certain questions raised by US Conference of Catholic Bishops concerning artificial nutrition and hydration

By John-Henry Westen

VATICAN CITY, September 14, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In most hospitals in North America, families of patients in permanent vegetative state are asked if they wish their family member to have their artificial feeding tube removed. According to a definitive ruling by the Vatican made public today, the withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration from such patients is immoral.

The ruling from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was made in response to certain questions raised by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops concerning artificial nutrition and hydration. The replies were approved by Pope Benedict XVI during an audience granted to Cardinal William Joseph Levada, prefect of the congregation.

"First question: Is the administration of food and water (whether by natural or artificial means) to a patient in a 'vegetative state' morally obligatory except when they cannot be assimilated by the patient's body or cannot be administered to the patient without causing significant physical discomfort?

"Response: Yes. The administration of food and water even by artificial means is, in principle, an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving life. It is therefore obligatory to the extent to which, and for as long as, it is shown to accomplish its proper finality, which is the hydration and nourishment of the patient. In this way suffering and death by starvation and dehydration are prevented.

"Second question: When nutrition and hydration are being supplied by artificial means to a patient in a 'permanent vegetative state,' may they be discontinued when competent physicians judge with moral certainty that the patient will never recover consciousness?

"Response: No. A patient in a 'permanent vegetative state' is a person with fundamental human dignity and must, therefore, receive ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food even by artificial means."

An English-language note accompanying the responses indicates that: "When stating that the administration of food and water is morally obligatory 'in principle,' the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith does not exclude the possibility that, in very remote places or in situations of extreme poverty, the artificial provision of food and water may be physically impossible, and then 'ad impossibilia nemo tenetur.' However, the obligation to offer the minimal treatments that are available remains in place, as well as that of obtaining, if possible, the means necessary for an adequate support of life.

"Nor is the possibility excluded that, due to emerging complications, a patient may be unable to assimilate food and liquids, so that their provision becomes altogether useless. Finally, the possibility is not absolutely excluded that, in some rare cases, artificial nourishment and hydration may be excessively burdensome for the patient or may cause significant physical discomfort, for example resulting from complications in the use of the means employed.

"These exceptional cases, however, take nothing away from the general ethical criterion, according to which the provision of water and food, even by artificial means, always represents a 'natural means' for preserving life, and is not a 'therapeutic treatment.' Its use should therefore be considered 'ordinary and proportionate,' even when the 'vegetative state' is prolonged."

(with files from the Vatican Information Service)


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: bxvi; catholic; dehydration; ethics; euthanasia; feedingtube; food; humandignity; humanlife; hydration; killing; nutrition; ordinarymeans; pope; prolife; pvs; starvation; water

1 posted on 09/15/2007 8:37:26 PM PDT by monomaniac
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To: monomaniac

Affirm Life.


2 posted on 09/15/2007 8:39:34 PM PDT by Mad_Tom_Rackham (Elections have consequences.)
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To: Mad_Tom_Rackham

” Yes. The administration of food and water even by artificial means is, in principle, an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving LIFE “

What a life ...


3 posted on 09/15/2007 8:43:08 PM PDT by sushiman
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To: Mad_Tom_Rackham

Of course. How could any thinking person think otherwise.


4 posted on 09/15/2007 8:43:27 PM PDT by Iwo Jima ("Close the border. Then we'll talk.")
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To: sushiman

Life is not yours to end.


5 posted on 09/15/2007 8:44:32 PM PDT by Mad_Tom_Rackham (Elections have consequences.)
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To: Mad_Tom_Rackham

Nor is it yours to keep going once the spirit has left the body. I’m not so sure that it is moral to keep a body alive once the mind and soul are gone. In the old days we would not have had the ability.

People make the choice to let a loved one who is without hope (whether in a vegitative state or not) go to the lord everyday and I see nothing wrong with that. If its a medical certainty that the brain is dead and the patient will never think another thought then why keep the body going? The person inside already left and is with the lord.


6 posted on 09/15/2007 8:56:49 PM PDT by SmoothTalker
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To: sushiman

I have no problem with providing nourishment. However, in these cases, is it reasonable to deny radical medical intervention otherwise?


7 posted on 09/15/2007 9:02:54 PM PDT by tbw2 (Science fiction with real science - "Humanity's Edge" by Tamara Wilhite)
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To: SmoothTalker

How do you know when the spirit has left? Do you have extraordinary powers?


8 posted on 09/15/2007 9:15:40 PM PDT by Mad_Tom_Rackham (Elections have consequences.)
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To: SmoothTalker
Nor is it yours to keep going once the spirit has left the body. I’m not so sure that it is moral to keep a body alive once the mind and soul are gone.

The Catholic Church, and hence the Christian religion, teach that the soul does not reside exclusively within the organ that we call "the brain". The soul exists within the entire human body. The Church teaches that "the soul has left the body" only when the ENTIRE body dies naturally, on its' own. Furthermore, the Church also teaches that God alone decides when the body dies, not us. We humans are obligated to provide basic needs, like nutrition and hydration, just as if the person was in a coma we knew they would wake up from it within two weeks, and would be fine after that.

A Catholic person who is supposedly "brain dead" can still receive final redemption (for want of a better word, I am not a theologian), even though not conscious, through the sacraments (Last Rites, or as it is known today, Anointing of the Sick). These Sacraments are VERY powerful in the redemptive quality, having been instituted by Jesus Christ Himself. Even a non-Catholic can be Baptized while not conscious (in fact I believe this would be considered a corporal act of mercy, although someone who knows Catholic theology better than me may want to correct me on this point). Therefore, by allowing someone to die by "pulling the plug" before they can receive the final Sacraments may literally cause them to be denied eternal life. Even administering the final Sacraments, but then going ahead and "pulling the plug" anyway, violates the will of God, and therefore cannot be supported by ANY Catholic (as the Pope re-affirmed in this pronouncement).

Since the soul is incorporated into the entire body, not just the brain, in the view of Christianity, to end a life without providing basic sustenance is considered to be murder. However, I believe this does not include "extraordinary measures", like heart/lung machines. We are talking just basic sustenance here (food, water, clothing, etc...). The "basics" must always be provided until life ends naturally. Again, if I have this wrong, I invite someone with a better knowledge of Catholic Theology to GENTLY correct me.
9 posted on 09/15/2007 9:25:35 PM PDT by Zetman
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To: tbw2
However, in these cases, is it reasonable to deny radical medical intervention otherwise?

IMHO yes.

The Pope didn't address that question AFAIK, but if it comes to that point I'm not going to allow my bedridden and senile 96 year old mother to suffer through something like major abdominal or cardiac surgery just to keep her breathing for a few more weeks or months. When the Lord whispers "come home child," in her ear I won't attempt to override His timing with extraordinary medical procedures.

But providing food and water through a feeding tube is not the same thing. I fed my Dad through a tube for almost a year before he died of kidney failure. I will also keep Mom on a feeding tube if it becomes necessary, because I believe that preventing death by starvation and thirst is altogether different morally and spiritually from performing a radical medical procedure just to prolong a vegetative state of life for a few more weeks or months.

These are hard questions for a Christian to answer in light of modern medical science's advances, and I agree with the Pope's pronouncement as far as it went. But I don't see anything in the article addressing the matter of attempting to keep a comatose patient alive by radical artificial means, so I intend to use my own best judgment guided by biblical principles if that situation ever arises with someone who is my responsibility, and it every well may arise in the near future given Mom's precarious physical and mental condition. I can only pray that I will make the right decision in the eyes of God if and when that time comes.

10 posted on 09/15/2007 10:04:17 PM PDT by epow (3000 Americans were murdered on 9/11/01, 4000 unborn America babies were murdered on each day since)
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To: SmoothTalker
I’m not so sure that it is moral to keep a body alive once the mind and soul are gone.

How will we prove that the soul is gone, when the body is still warm?

Will "soulistic medicine practioners" hold seances?

11 posted on 09/16/2007 12:39:10 AM PDT by syriacus (30,000 Americans died in Korea in 30 months, BECAUSE Truman had withdrawn TOO many troops, TOO soon)
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To: syriacus

Just to ask a basic practical question here, who is going to pay for keeping alive a person in a vegetative state, or unable to eat or drink on their own anymore. The relatives? You better hope that the wait is a short one for someone to pass away, or all of your money will be eaten up by nursing home expenses or hospital expenses. Hospitals can’t keep all vegetative patients alive in their hospitals for days, months, or years on end. Nursing homes won’t want that responsibility either unless you are willing to pay for it. Or, be prepared to take your vegetative relative home with you, along with all of the necessary in-home treatment and/or in-home nursing, and pay for that too, as well as attending to your relative every day until the end comes, which again could be days, months, years. Or do you expect that the State or Federal gov’ts should pay to keep your relative alive? Just like a good Dem would end up introducing one day as a bill in Congress.

So, just as long as you are willing to accept the financial responsibility for your choice, then fine. Otherwise, not fine, and the decisions should be left up to each individual family as to what that choice is, and no one else. No big brother, whether it be gov’t or church should be in on this decision. Let the families decide what is best for themselves, whatever that decision is. End of life decisions have always been the choice of the family. It shouldn’t be messed with by anyone. Before today’s modern medicine which allows for hydration and nourishment, people just died. Therefore, hydration and nourishment is indeed an artificial means of prolonging life that didn’t exist before when death would otherwise occur. Oh boy, what a hornet’s nest. Here we go with the Shiavo stuff again, I smell it coming.


12 posted on 09/16/2007 1:15:45 AM PDT by flaglady47 (Thinking out loud while grinding teeth in political frustration)
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To: flaglady47
End of life decisions have always been the choice of the family.

Euthanasia is wrong.

13 posted on 09/16/2007 5:44:58 AM PDT by syriacus (30,000 Americans died in Korea in 30 months, BECAUSE Truman had withdrawn TOO many troops, TOO soon)
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To: flaglady47
Hospitals can’t keep all vegetative patients alive in their hospitals for days, months, or years on end

I think there will be medical advances if this becomes an issue.

Euthanasia-enthusiasts are pessimists who do little or nothing to help mankind.

14 posted on 09/16/2007 5:49:32 AM PDT by syriacus (30,000 Americans died in Korea in 30 months, BECAUSE Truman had withdrawn TOO many troops, TOO soon)
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To: flaglady47
Before today’s modern medicine which allows for hydration and nourishment, people just died.

My elderly mother occasionally has days of weakness. At those times I have to help hold her upright as she drinks her ensure or water through a straw. Would it be all right if I decided I didn't want to assist her in obtaining her nutrition and hydration?

And, now, many lives are saved because people can get their nutrition via a tube, rather than drinking a glass of Ensure like my mother does.

As I wrote above,
people who are concerned about others are resourceful and inventive and help make things better for humanity..

Concerned people look for positive answers and don't settle for finding the quickest way to kill.

Here's info about a woman who looked for ways to help children with feeding tubes.

Message from Bundiebaby Founder and President Jody Williams

I had been a foster parent for medically fragile infants for over nine years. In that time I have cared for more than twenty special needs babies in my home.

One of our babies was old enough to pull out his tubing. The baby's discomfort along with tubing reinsertion several times a day were frustrating. It prompted me to look for clothing options that would assist me with daily living, but I found none.

With experience in fashion design, I started creating outfits that safely and securely stored medical devices and tubing. Working with doctors, nurses, therapists and parents, the designs were refined. Our flagship garment, the Bundie, was born. This new outfit gave me the peace of mind I was looking for while providing quality care for the babies.


15 posted on 09/16/2007 6:12:24 AM PDT by syriacus (30,000 Americans died in Korea in 30 months, BECAUSE Truman had withdrawn TOO many troops, TOO soon)
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To: syriacus

“Euthanasia is wrong.”

Well, I hate to tell you, but these end of life decisions are being made and have been made for years on end. At some point most people don’t want to see their elderly parents suffer anymore and aren’t willing to put a feeding tube in the stomach of a 95 year old man or woman in order to prolong life when they can’t even eat anymore. Who are you pleasing, yourself or your parent. I think the former and it is selfish and cruel to the parent. But, I know, you don’t think that way because you are so morally superior than the average joe making these decisions for their own families. Why don’t you get off your moral high horse and face reality.


16 posted on 09/16/2007 7:31:03 AM PDT by flaglady47 (Thinking out loud while grinding teeth in political frustration)
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To: syriacus

“Euthanasia-enthusiasts are pessimists who do little or nothing to help mankind.”

It’s not euthanasia and never was considered so until just a few years ago, when all of you types started coming out of the woodwork to try to guilt trip people all over this country who make decisions at the ends of their relatives lives all the time. You’d like to make decisions which were once the purview of the families themselves into something it never was. They are letting their elderly relatives pass peacefully rather than be subject to needles, intraveneous hydration, feeding tubes, when normally they would have just died naturally, not kept alive like zombies by artificial means. Sorry most ordinary folks don’t measure up to your moralistic purity.


17 posted on 09/16/2007 7:36:11 AM PDT by flaglady47 (Thinking out loud while grinding teeth in political frustration)
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To: syriacus

Concerned people look for positive answers and don’t settle for finding the quickest way to kill.

Your types just love to use words like “kill” don’t you. Gives you great pleasure and satisfaction to know that you are on such an elevated moral plane over the folks out there whose families have to make the difficult end of life decisions for their loved ones. Don’t get chilly up there on your lofty cloud.


18 posted on 09/16/2007 7:38:36 AM PDT by flaglady47 (Thinking out loud while grinding teeth in political frustration)
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To: flaglady47
Your types...Don’t get chilly up there on your lofty cloud.

Thanks for your expressions of concern. But, you needn't worry. I have plenty of company with people I can trust my life to.

Just to ask a basic practical question here, who is going to pay for keeping alive a person in a vegetative state, or unable to eat or drink on their own anymore.

Here's my advice to you....

Don't go on a rugged hike in a remote region with someone who is enthusiastic about getting rid of people whom they view as "dead wood."

If you two find yourself in a difficult situation, it could well be "every man for himself."

19 posted on 09/16/2007 8:28:23 AM PDT by syriacus (The way you quietly say you would treat the weak, screams volumes about you.)
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To: syriacus

“Here’s my advice to you....

Don’t go on a rugged hike in a remote region with someone who is enthusiastic about getting rid of people whom they view as “dead wood.”

That’s such a silly, childish, all “feelings” type of reply typical of a Dem. Grow up and deal with the world as it is, including dealing with the actualities of the end of life. But deal with it in your own family rather than meddling with how others handle their own experiences in their families.


20 posted on 09/16/2007 8:35:50 AM PDT by flaglady47 (Thinking out loud while grinding teeth in political frustration)
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To: flaglady47
Your types just love to use words like “kill” don’t you

Don't let the extended time-line of a starvation-dehydration death fool you.

Killing doesn't have to be a one-day project, any more than poisoning needs to be a one day project.

21 posted on 09/16/2007 8:44:02 AM PDT by syriacus (The way you quietly say you would treat the weak, screams volumes about you.)
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To: flaglady47
Grow up and deal with the world as it is, including dealing with the actualities of the end of life.

I do. Every day that I care for my mother.

22 posted on 09/16/2007 8:45:17 AM PDT by syriacus (The way you quietly say you would treat the weak, screams volumes about you.)
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To: syriacus

I do. Every day that I care for my mother.

Well, aren’t you special. Like the rest of us don’t have mothers and fathers that we take care or or took care of until they passed away. I lost six relatives in the space of 5 years to old age. So, aren’t I special. See, there you go with that moral superiority again, like you are the only one who has a mother.


23 posted on 09/16/2007 8:48:43 AM PDT by flaglady47 (Thinking out loud while grinding teeth in political frustration)
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To: flaglady47
Well, aren’t you special.

Wherever did you get that idea?

I was replying to your incorrect assertions about my familiarity with end of life issues.

I'm not out to prove anything except that I have cared for someone who has been close to death upon occasions.

You assumed I hadn't.

24 posted on 09/16/2007 10:32:59 AM PDT by syriacus (The way you quietly say you would treat the weak, screams volumes about you.)
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To: flaglady47
See, there you go with that moral superiority again, like you are the only one who has a mother.

Not at all. You've leapt to an incorrect conclusion.

25 posted on 09/16/2007 10:35:50 AM PDT by syriacus (The way you quietly say you would treat the weak, screams volumes about you.)
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To: flaglady47

I have asked that question many times on similar threads and never gotten a straight answer. As for myself, I’m making a note to stay out of Catholic hospitals. I don’t want to linger on like that, no matter what the Pope says.


26 posted on 09/16/2007 11:57:45 AM PDT by kms61
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