Are living wills, murder/suicide?

Are advanced directives “living wills” which restrict the use of life saving medical treatment and feed tubes, murder/suicide?

Peace in Christ,
Steven Merten
www.ILOVEYOUGOD.com

[quote=Steven Merten]Are advanced directives “living wills” which restrict the use of life saving medical treatment and feed tubes, murder/suicide?
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Living Wills are not a bad thing. Most people only think of living wills as being associated with dying. However, you can make a living will that says that you WANT to have a feeding tube, ventilator, medications, etc. to prolong or help you live (I have one that says these things). This will ensure that family, friends, medical personnel, etc. all know EXACTLY what YOU want. In my case, I choose life; though I know that the church teaches that one can forego extreme measures to prolong an inevitable death. When God wants me, He will take me and no amount of medicine or respirators will be able to stop Him.
I am not afraid of dying. However, I do not want to place the decision on a loved one who may feel guilty over whatever decision they make. Likewise, I don’t want “the plug” pulled and a month later something is discovered that could have brought me out of the coma (or whatever) and now I have missed the opportunity to push my grandchildren on the swing or a 50th anniversary.
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They’re great…but need to be checked against Church Teaching so that nobody is being asked to go against their Faith.

The debate here is what constitutes “ordinary” means of life support, and what constitutes “extraordinary” means. You can read all about it in documents/books from, and perhaps the website of the Catholic Hospital Association. It is also discussed in many moral theology books.
As to food and hydration, there is a continuum from providing a knife and fork, to hyperalimentation (feeding nutrients directly into a patient’s veins). Where the Church draws the line I don’t really know. It likely also depends on the condition and prognosis of the patient.

Whether the Popes recent speech about feeding tubes breaks new ground, or is consistant with the a long line of teaching on the subject is beyond me. I do know it sent the CHA and some Cathoic physicians scrambling a bit

Don’t buy into all the rhetoric from the conservative talking-heads. They know an opportunity when they see it. What makes Terri’s case so unusual is the lack of living will, guardian/ husband with seemingly less than honorable motives, and a contentious journey through the court system.

Pray for Terri, but not so much that she remain alive, but because that’s just what Christians do for souls on their journey to their “beautific vision.”

living wills are the most important thing you can do for yourself and your family. Who would want to live like that! Terri died 15 years ago. Michael is only carring out her wishes… There are no winners in this situation…But doesn’t your faith belive that there is something better after one dies?

[quote=rpstpa]Who would want to live like that!
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Everyone should want to live. Suffering is only temporary. And not only does it provide others with an opportinuty to help us (and thus earn graces for themselves), but it can also help us to grow in our ability to resist and overcome our own sinful tendancies to follow the desires of the world.

[quote=rpstpa]Terri died 15 years ago. Michael is only carring out her wishes…
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Ummm, no…she didn’t. And no…he’s not. :rolleyes:

[quote=rpstpa]But doesn’t your faith belive that there is something better after one dies?
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Yes. Death is an unnatural state of existence – thankfully only temporary. But life is a gift, and we have no right whatsoever to intentionally take away that gift that God has given to us. Only He gave it, and only He has the right to decide when it is best to take it away.

Can anyone give us quotes from Church documents indicating that the Church has always taught that discontinuing feed tubes has always been murder while discontinuing ventilation tubes has never been murder/suicide?

Peace in Christ,
Steven Merten
www.ILOVEYOUGOD.com

ewtn.com/expert/answers/end_of_life_decisions.htm

[quote=rpstpa]living wills are the most important thing you can do for yourself and your family. Who would want to live like that! Terri died 15 years ago. Michael is only carring out her wishes… There are no winners in this situation…But doesn’t your faith belive that there is something better after one dies?
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“Most important thing”… pretty big words, no? I don’t know where such an extreme statement could come from, except out of fear… fear of uncertainty, fear of suffering, fear of loss of control, fear of a difficult death. Surely the most important thing you give yourself and your family is not borne primarily from your fears? How much better to give them a life in God that rejects these fears and learns trust and the source from which the strength is given to live through any day, one day at a time. Live in peace and joy, in understanding and mutual support, not fear. This is the greatest gift families have to offer each other.

The Catholic position is that you live the life you’re given and trust that you will not go wrong by serving God in whatever way is God’s choice for you. Be very careful. It is one thing to be grateful for the life you have been given and quite another to disdain the life another has been given. A life that pleases us most and a life that proves to have been the most worth living are hardly the same thing. You don’t have to be “spiritual” to see the truth in that. Most of us can recall times we have gone through things that as a prospect we would have never wished on an enemy. Yet we look back and see that the experience, difficult as it was, was not something we would have traded away for any price, for any of a hundred different reasons. Life is good, but it is not simple, nor easy.

St. Paul himself could not decide whether to prefer to be given additional life on earth, with which to serve God, or to be given death, so as to be done with his trials and be more fully with God the sooner. What was clear was that he resigned himself to whatever God chose for him and lived in the joy of Christ that is in each day. His was not a life of stoicism or nihilism, but a shared life lived in the peace and joy and love of God. “Nada te turbe, nada te espante.” That is the ticket.

We don’t believe that it is simply “better” or “worse” after you die. It is the same, only more so: either life under the grace and love of God or “life” divorced from God, “lived” under your own horrible will, which truly is no life at all… for even we know deep down that such a life is lived with no one “in control” at the controls. You can’t live like that, except in fear. How horrible!

Christ is risen! He has won eternal life for us today! Whatever life you hope to live in eternity is open to you to live right now, no matter what “fortune” or “misfortune” befalls you. That is the Good News!

[quote=Steven Merten]Are advanced directives “living wills” which restrict the use of life saving medical treatment and feed tubes, murder/suicide?

Peace in Christ,
Steven Merten
www.ILOVEYOUGOD.com
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I have one comment on the first chioce of the poll. It was…

Yes! Any time CPR, feed tubes, or ventilators can save life, it is murder not to use them.

CPR is only done after someone is dead. CPR has, on very limited occasions, restarted the heart but that is not what CPR is for.

CPR is to keep oxygen to the brain so that more advanced life saving measures have a chance to work.

As a former paramedic who helped train new EMTs, we used to tell them not to worry when doing CPR. As when CPR is properly done it can, and usually does, break ribs. We would tell them, after all they are already dead, you can’t hurt them any more. If they are saved they will be happy that they have broken ribs.

[quote=ByzCath]I have one comment on the first chioce of the poll. It was…

CPR is only done after someone is dead. CPR has, on very limited occasions, restarted the heart but that is not what CPR is for.

CPR is to keep oxygen to the brain so that more advanced life saving measures have a chance to work.

As a former paramedic who helped train new EMTs, we used to tell them not to worry when doing CPR. As when CPR is properly done it can, and usually does, break ribs. We would tell them, after all they are already dead, you can’t hurt them any more. If they are saved they will be happy that they have broken ribs.
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In my training of CPR we are to stop and check patient for breathing and pulse after a number of repetitions. We were trained not to simply continue CPR till the aid unit arrived but to stop when the patient started beathing and had a pulse.

Possibly ressussitation would have been a better word. When room in boxes are limmited on characters simply stating CPR seemed to get the point across without burning charactors.

Peace in Christ,
Steven Merten
www.ILOVEYOUGOD.com

I have a living will but I am not entirely comfortable with it. The standard forms seem to give too much priority to death. Another thing is this: How do I know now what I will want in a possible future situation that I will never have experienced before? Perhaps now I can’t conceive of wanting to continue to live that way, but I might feel different when the time comes. In any case I prefer to have a health care power of attorney. I would rather have a person I trust make those decisions than rely on trying to forsee all the possibilities in a living will.

I am perfectly comfortable with the traditional Catholic teaching about using ordinary means and not being obligated to use extraordinary means. And extraordinary can depend on the circumstances. There are some situations in which even a feeding tube can be considered an extraordinary means.

In the end, we think we can have control, but we can’t. That became apparent to me in the last few months of of my father’s life. It occurred to me that other people were making all the decisions for him, mainly me. And I did my best using the ordinary/extraordinary means test, doing what I believed to be in his best interest.

In a medical emergency, medical personnel are not going to be digging around for documents. They will be making their best decisions. And when there’s a doubt, they’ll be asking the nearest relative for an immediate decision.

Ever since Adam and Eve, human beings have thought that we could control everything. We can’t. And in the end, we lose control. We ultimately have to let go and accept what comes.

MIGHT I SUGGEST…

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care INSTEAD of a Living Will?

When I attended a lecture by Rita Marker, J.D. (founder/member of International Task Force), she explained it as such. She had written “Clear Liquid” on the marker board. This was supposed to be the equivalent of “Advance Directive” in the analogy. Underneath it she had “Bleach” & “Water”. Both qualify as “clear liquid”, but, one is harmful & deadly if consumed…just like the two sub sections under advance directive. “Think of a living will as bleach & Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care as water.” In the first, it’s like writting a blank check to ANY physician. The second is writting power off to a seclect person. AND, she explained that ANY DPOAFHC is better than **no **DPOAFHC. By signing it, it’s effective anywhere and revokes any prior directive.

[quote=adstrinity]MIGHT I SUGGEST…

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care INSTEAD of a Living Will?

When I attended a lecture by Rita Marker, J.D. (founder/member of International Task Force), she explained it as such. She had written “Clear Liquid” on the marker board. This was supposed to be the equivalent of “Advance Directive” in the analogy. Underneath it she had “Bleach” & “Water”. Both qualify as “clear liquid”, but, one is harmful & deadly if consumed…just like the two sub sections under advance directive. “Think of a living will as bleach & Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care as water.” In the first, it’s like writting a blank check to ANY physician. The second is writting power off to a seclect person. AND, she explained that ANY DPOAFHC is better than **no **DPOAFHC. By signing it, it’s effective anywhere and revokes any prior directive.
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Ah but…

The person named in the DPOAFHC can do what ever they wish, even it if goes against the wishes of the patient.

[quote=ByzCath]Ah but…The person named in the DPOAFHC can do what ever they wish, even it if goes against the wishes of the patient.
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True, but the fact is, nobody really knows the patient’s wishes–not even the patient himself in his prior healthy life: he cannot say what this future patient wants, at this time, and in this place, and in these circumstances. The person named in a health care power of attorney is in a better position to make those decisions.

And if the patient in fact just wants someone to kill him, his representative cannot morally carry out those wishes.

[quote=ByzCath]Ah but…

The person named in the DPOAFHC can do what ever they wish, even it if goes against the wishes of the patient.
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Well, only if the patient can’t speak for themselves… but yes, you do have to select the person to whom you give DPOAFHC very carefully, making it someone you trust entirely, and have some detailed discussions with the person about what your wishes are. I love my sister very much, but I wouldn’t give her DPOAFHC. She argues with me too much about whether I really want what I tell her I want as it is! :wink:

[quote=JimG]The person named in a health care power of attorney is in a better position to make those decisions.

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I am sorry but I disagree with this.

I wish to live my life according to a set of moral priniciples which include following the Teachings of the Church.

Now God forbid that I end up like Terri, I would still not want my feeding tube removed, but if I gave someone the health care power of attorney they could remove the feeding tube.

If you give someone this power it will be their choice no matter how you lived your life or what you said while you could. It would all depend on what they wanted done.

[quote=ByzCath]I wish to live my life according to a set of moral priniciples which include following the Teachings of the Church.

Now God forbid that I end up like Terri, I would still not want my feeding tube removed, but if I gave someone the health care power of attorney they could remove the feeding tube.
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Well, that’s true, and that’s an arguement in favor of a very specific living will. And I agree that food and water should in nearly all cases be considered ordinary care.

But, as a hypothetical, if you were in a truly terminal stage such that a feeding tube would neither prolong your life nor give you comfort–suppose you had lost the ability to digest or metabolize food–there would be no moral imperative to insert it or to leave it in. At that point your specific living will might prove to be too rigid.

And keep in mind that a living will is not self-enforcing. Someone is going to either abide by its provisions or disregard them, or perhaps try to interpret them. Most cases of disputed care never end up in court.

Finally, it is possible as well to write a health care POA with specific instructions as to your wishes. Certainly the person named should have an understanding of life issues in accordance with your own.

The case of Terri Schiavo could have been avoided if she had a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care picked.

If it was her husband he could have seen her dead a long time ago.

Jim, I do not deal in hypotheticals because they seldom occur and are usually used to confuse the issue.

I do not know of any case where one could not digest or metabolize food, and if there was such a case a feeding tube would then be a moot point. The insertion of one would not make any difference.

So, is this settled then?

If you make up a living will, explicitly stating that you want a feeding tube removed if you are in a PVS, without need of any other extraordinary devices or treatments, you are commiting a mortal sin and signing your admission ticket to hell?

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