Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Catholic scoop on the end of life

In light of the last post, perhaps we should have a quick refresher on church teaching around death, which was largely forgotten in the case of Terri Schiavo. According to the U.S. bishops Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, Fourth Edition, (56-58, emphasis added):

"A person has a moral obligation to use ordinary or proportionate means of preserving his or her life. Proportionate means are those that in the judgment of the patient offer a reasonable hope of benefit and do not entail an excessive burden or impose excessive expense on the family or the community.

"A person may forgo extraordinary or disproportionate means of preserving life. Disproportionate means are those that in the patient's judgment do not offer a reasonable hope of benefit or entail an excessive burden, or impose excessive expense on the family or the community.

"There should be a presumption in favor of providing nutrition and hydration to all patients, including patients who require medically assisted nutrition and hydration, as long as this is of sufficient benefit to outweigh the burdens involved to the patient."

With those complex principles in mind, it makes good sense for an adult to indicate in advance the kind of care she or he would like in the case of a grave injury. A living will is an excellent tool for that purpose. A durable power of attorney for health care, which designates a proxy to make medical decisions in case of incapacitation, is better.

In fact, it is an act of charity to family members and friends to take advantage of these instruments. Had poor Terri done it, she and her family may have been spared the outrageous exploitation of her tragedy by all parties, which continues still.

Of course, once again, I have yet to hear the church's actual teaching in any post-Schiavo rhetoric. In the end, all the "pro-life" hyperbole about end-of-life care ends up burdening the consciences of people already facing difficult moral and personal decisions.


Post a Comment

<< Home