Bio-ethics: September 2007 Archives

Unfit for Life

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I was pregnant last year and came under severe pressure from every medical professional I saw about my decision to have no tests. Even when I pointed out that they were talking to a disabled person about the possibility of eliminating her child if it was disabled, they could not see how offensive it was.

The summer issue of The New Atlantis is online. As always, very good stuff.

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Never forget Terri Schiavo

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The CDF weighs in, confirming - as common sense also tells us - that starving even the very sick and dying is immoral.

It is stated, first of all, that the provision of water and food, even by artificial means, is in principle an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving life for patients in a "vegetative state": "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."

It is made clear, secondly, that this ordinary means of sustaining life is to be provided also to those in a "permanent vegetative state," since these are persons with their fundamental human dignity.

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.

As of this posting, Bishop Lynch's apology has not yet been posted on the diocesan website.

P.S. Anybody else creeped out by the faceless people in the banner image on that St. Petersburg diocese webpage?

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Bio-ethics category from September 2007.

Bio-ethics: July 2007 is the previous archive.

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