Saturday, August 2, 2008

Good Question

This is about the Declaration on Euthanasia, written by Pope John Paul in 1980 I think.

It's a little complicated, and I don't want to use names of course, in case someone reading this knows the family.

I have a friend, a nurse, who's relative, a 96 yr old widow, had a stroke a couple of weeks ago. They called it a storm, meaning most of her brain has been affected. She is paralyzed on her left side and cannot talk, though she seems to be aware of her surroundings, responds to them and can make noises. She also "fusses" when they move her or change her clothes, so she is very much "with us" though she cannot communicate clearly.She is stable enough; so that they were able to bring her home last week. The woman's daughter lives with her, and they have home health help.

The problem is this: the hospital personnel and doctors involved with her in the beginning, even the home health nurse who was with her at the time of the stroke, said that since she has a DNR in place, and has signed a living will, that they would recommend that she not receive care. They even felt that she should not receive nourishment.

My friend, being an in-law, and not the blood kin, had kept her mouth shut until this point. She insisted that the Church requires that a patient receive basic care and that would include nourishment, even if that involved a feeding tube. She was surprised at the response she got from the hospital personnel and even from her own family members, one of whom is a hospital administrator. She was told that the lady was old and it would be unfair to force her to live when she was in such a state. They said her "quality of life" would be poor, and besides it was not her decision anyway. My friend said she felt that they were being pressured to let the woman die.

So she encouraged her husband to consult their priest, before making a decision. Apparently the lady's daughter agreed with her, and said she had no intention of starving her mother to death, and requested they insert the feeding tube. Which they did. The lady is holding her own and seems happy to be in her own home. The next day they spoke with their priest (and this is the clincher) Father said the feeding tube could be considered "extraordinary measures" and it would not have been wrong to decline it. He is saying the feeding tube is "invasive" .

Who gets to decide what are extraordinary means? We have read this Declaration as part of our biology class and it IS vague to me. Do we leave these decisions up to the doctors? I hope not. How can the mere act of feeding a person be considered extraordinary?

We need to read those "living wills" carefully; so that we do not give someone too much choice over our own lives. Or we need to be clear, so that our families don't have to make these kinds of decisions, or have these kinds of disagreements.(emphasis Adam's)

This is so important, I would love to hear other opinions.


Adam said...

Based on the very document you mentioned, I really see very little wiggle room. In my opinion, based on this document and PASTORAL CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH IN THE MODERN WORLD GAUDIUM ET SPES PROMULGATED BY HIS HOLINESS, POPE PAUL VI ON DECEMBER 7, 1965,(item 27), allowing this woman to die by not providing nourishment is flawed logic at best. Death would not be imminent unless normal food was withheld and that meets the test of an act of the will-and I quote “.Although in these cases the guilt of the individual may be reduced or completely absent, nevertheless the error of judgment into which the conscience falls, perhaps in good faith, does not change the nature of this act of killing, which will always be in itself something to be rejected.


By euthanasia is understood an action or an omission which of itself or by intention causes death, in order that all suffering may in this way be eliminated. Euthanasia's terms of reference, therefore, are to be found in the intention of the will and in the methods used. It is necessary to state firmly once more that nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person entrusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action. For it is a question of the violation of the divine law, an offense against the dignity of the human person, a crime against life, and an attack on humanity.

When inevitable death is imminent in spite of the means used, it is permitted in conscience to take the decision to refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted. In such circumstances the doctor has no reason to reproach himself with failing to help the person in danger.

Yup—that’s why the Knightsof Columbus recommend durable power of attorney, NO LIVING WILLS which are subject to doctors and court interpretation

Anonymous said...

Found this in the Catholic Culture blog: