November 12, 2009

I got this via email yesterday, and gee, I hope the media covers this one (.pdf link to application for media credentials). Because there are all kinds of implications: Does the Catholic Church get to decide that, government health insurance will pay for the indefinite maintenance of someone in a persistent vegetative state because they've suddenly decided to up the ante?

And do Catholic hospital officials intend to override advance directives or medical powers of attorney? Remember, many people live in a community that has only a Catholic hospital. (While my father was dying from excruciatingly painful pancreatic cancer, he was denied a morphine drip by his Catholic pro-life doctor. The Saint said it might make dad might die a few hours sooner than he was "supposed" to, so this is more than a theoretical issue to me.)

I'd just like to remind everyone that the Catholic Church continues to make disapproving noises about unjust war and the death penalty, but I never see any public denouncements of the politicians who support them them. Instead, they throw their weight behind issues like this.

What would Jesus do? I'm guessing not this.

WASHINGTON-The full body of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will take into account the most recent Catholic teaching on care for the chronically ill and dying when they vote on a proposed revision of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services at their November 16-19 general assembly in Baltimore. The proposed revision states more definitively the moral obligation to provide medically assisted nutrition and hydration to patients in a "persistent vegetative state."

[...] "It would be useful to update the Ethical and Religious Directives by inclusion of references to these authoritative documents as well as byincorporation of some of their language and distinctions," said Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut, Chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Doctrine. "It is particularly appropriate to do so since the recent clarifications by the Holy See have rendered untenable certain positions that have been defended by some Catholic ethicists."

The current Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services says, "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."

Along with other changes, the proposed revision says, "As a general rule, there is an obligation to provide patients with food and water, including medically assisted nutrition and hydration for those who cannot take food orally. This obligation extends to patients in chronic conditions (e.g., the 'persistent vegetative state') who can reasonably be expected to live indefinitely if given such care."

To be adopted, the proposed revision must be approved by a majority of bishops present and voting at the November meeting.

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