Can a feeding tube be removed from a dying person?

In light of the events around Terri Schiavo, I know it is wrong to remove the feeding tube from a person who is in a so-called “persistent vegetative state,” even though Terri Schiavo herself is not in such a state. The feeding tube is an ordinary means of care. But is it also wrong to remove a feeding tube from a person who is dying?

If the feeding and hydration fail to sustain life or cause suffering, then and only then may they be removed. In a statement on the Terri Schiavo case, the National Catholic Bioethics Center has stated:

In view of the continuing controversy over the case of Terri Schiavo, the ethicists of The National Catholic Bioethics Center would like to reiterate their firm conviction that food and water should be provided for all patients who suffer PVS [persistent vegetative state] unless it fails to sustain life or causes suffering. We make this judgment based on the Catholic moral tradition, on the 1992 statement of the Pro-Life Secretariat of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops dealing with hydration and nutrition for patients in PVS, on years of consideration of comparable cases and in view of Pope John Paul II’s March 2004 allocution on life sustaining measures for patients in a persistent vegetative state. In general, the provision of nutrition and hydration to the patient in PVS is proportionate and morally obligatory. Removal of food and water is permissible only when they no longer attain the ends for which they are provided (source, emphasis added).

Recommended reading:

A Catholic Guide to End-of-Life Decisions by the National Catholic Bioethics Center
Food & Water by Jimmy Akin

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