Saturday, September 15, 2007

Vatican Says Vegetative patients have moral right to food, hydration

[Cross-posted from]

The Vatican has released a ruling clarifying the Catholic position on food and hydration to patients in persistent vegetative states who are not expected to recover from their injuries.

The Vatican said that patients in a vegetative state, with few exceptions, have a moral right to artificial food and hydration. “In this way suffering and death by starvation and dehydration are prevented,” according to a statement released by the Vatican and approved by Pope Benedict XVI.

Nutrition and hydration support are not obligatory when such care becomes “excessively burdensome” or when patients cannot assimilate food and liquids “so that their provision becomes altogether useless,” the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith wrote in a statement.

At the basis of the ruling is the moral belief that tube-feeding those near death is an "ordinary" state, and that the basic human dignity of the patient means that care should not stop.

The clarification becomes important because although Catholic doctrine does oppose euthanasia, it allows for the cessation of heroic, futile (extraordinary, and potentially painful) efforts. At question, then, has been whether or not tube-nourishment constitutes extraordinary or heroic efforts that are therefore optional under Catholic doctrine.

Ultimately, this affects more than "just" Catholics - many hospitals around the world are run by Catholic organizations who will feel bound by the ruling, and will enforce the decisions stemming from it regardless of whether or not the patient themself is Catholic.

-Kelly Hills

1 comment:

Kelly Hills said...

It was literally an "out the door oh crap I need to throw that online!" sort of post, or I would have tossed it up over here, too.

Careful, though - some people appear tetchy at the idea that moral rights are involved in the decision.