Monday, September 17, 2007
Vatican Confirms Requirement to Provide Feeding Tubes  

In response to questions posed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the Vatican has confirmed the moral obligation to provide nutrition and hydration to patients who are in a vegetative state.

In light of the tragic case of Ms. Terri Schiavo who was put to death by starvation and dehydration , the USCCB asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) for a clarification on the Church's teaching on this issue.

The response which was approved by Pope Benedict XVI, confirmed that "the church position that patients in a 'vegetative state' are living human beings with inherent dignity and deserve the same basic care as other patients. This basic care would include nutrition and hydration, even when provided through artificial assistance."

Furthermore, the CDF indicated that the food and hydration should be given regardless of the prognosis of the patient regarding consciousness. The CDF stated that, "ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food even by artificial means" should be supplied regardless of the prognosis of recovery of consciousness.

In a separate commentary, the CDF did note that there might be exceptions to this moral obligation, but these would be rare. Such circumstances might be remote places with extreme poverty, a situation in which it is futile to provide food and water because the patient is unable to assimilate the nutrition and hydration, or a case in which the discomfort of the reception of food and water far outweighs the benefits of providing it. In the Q&A document written by the USCCB to help apply this teaching, the example given for this last case is a patient who has stomach cancer. In this case, the patient may not be able to assimilate the food and water without great discomfort. Even given these exceptions, the CDF made clear that the exceptions do not negate the general provision that giving food and water, even by artificial means, represents "a natural means for providing life."

It would have been fairly easy to anticipate these answers. John Paul the Great made it clear that nutrition and hydration were ordinary means of care for a person regardless of the person's level of consciousness. The natural law, which is often understood as common sense, dictates that you cannot starve or dehydrate a person simply because the person is not conscious as is commonly understood. The fact that this was permitted to be done to Ms. Terri Schiavo, not to mention the numerous other people whose stories are lesser known, is a horrific and deeply disturbing tragedy.


The responses from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF)
A CDF commentary, approved by Cardinal William Levada and bishop members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
A Q&A from the USCCB Committee on Doctrine and Committee on Pro-Life Activities




Posted by David at 1:45 AM  |  Comments (0)  | Link


Post a Comment