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Tuesday, March 22

So Was It Moral?

I received more than a few requests as to what the Catholic Church teaches about life support. Since I studied moral theology about 15 years ago, a lot has changed actually. Just last year in March 2004, Pope John Paul issued outlines of care of persons in "Persistent Vegetative State". No matter what, he decried, a man will always be a man and never a vegetable, thus feeding and hydrating someone via tubes is no longer considered extraordinary measures as it had been thought for about the last 4 or 500 years. Read about it here if you wish.

Keep in mind, that there are no strict guidelines in moral theology. Nothing is black and white. I believe that the Pope knows that too. Moral theologians involved with a patient, take it on a case by case basis and the question of burden is an important one. Many moral theologians are priests with MD's and JD's as well.

I found this article that is based on the old moral theology, Hugh Finn's Right To Die written in 1998 by John Paris, a Jesuit priest and professor of bio-ethics at Boston College. His view and take on Hugh Finn's case was similar to what we studied in the seminary in that no one is obliged to use extraordinary measures to keep a person alive unless there is reasonable hope that the person will be brought back to health. Excerpt:
"If there is no benefit--physical or spiritual--to be gained from delaying death, traditional Catholic moral theology on the use of artificial means to prolong life would support the Virginia Supreme Court's ruling in the Finn case: Remove the medically supplied measures to sustain bodily existence, and allow the lethal pathology incurred in the tragic automobile accident to progress to its natural end."
I still don't know that much about the Schiavo case and wouldn't dare make a judgement on what should be done with her although I do feel at this point it's rather cruel to kill her by way of starvation and dehydration because I am a wuss and a parent. If her existence isn't a burden to her parents, then perhaps Michael should give them authority over her life. I don't know really. I wish I didn't know these things as I've mentioned before. As a spouse who wanted to get on with my life, I would think differently I'm sure.

Here's another article with a different take worth reading, if you are so inclined, called Flying in the Face of Catholicism. The author cites the Florida Bishops who for lack of better interpretation, I would say are old school moral theologians. This writer claims that the Florida Bishops absolutely did not even consider Pope John Paul's new guidelines for persons in a persistant vegetative state. Interesting stuff. You decide.

The judges decided on the case and the feeding tubes will not be reinserted into Theresa Schiavo. She will be allowed to die. They went along with law that Bush signed when he was governor of Texas before he flip flopped over the weekend and turned into a faux compassionate person for political gain.

This will continue to be a hotly debated issue and is going to have great repercussions especially in cases where patients don't have medical benefits and are allowed to die even when there is a chance of recovery. I think it will be good though. It should bring some of the hypocrisy of the GOP'ers out to the forefront and I doubt the mainstream media will be able to cover it up. I'd actually like to see our country embrace a culture of life for real.

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