In March, Pope John Paul II made a comment about prohibiting the removal of feeding tubes from individuals in a “vegatative” state. I was wondering if this view had been adopted yet, or what the current practice and view of the United States Catholic Hospitals and Bishops was on this issue?
Euthanasia is defined as: “An action or an omission which, of itself or by intention, causes the death of handicapped, sick, or dying persons–sometimes with an attempt to justify the act as a means of eliminating suffering. Euthanasia violates the fifth commandment of the law of God.” (CCC glossary) “Whatever its motives and means… [euthanasia] is morally unacceptable.” (CCC 2277)
Removal of the ordinary care due a handicapped, sick, or dying person is a form of euthanasia. “Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted.” (CCC 2279)
In the *Address of John Paul II to the Participants in the International Congress on “Life –Sustaining Treatments and Vegatative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemmas * (March 20, 2004), Pope John Paul II made it clear that feeding tubes should be considered ordinary care and should not be removed so long as they serve their intended purposes: “[T]he administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory insofar as and until it is seen to have attained its proper finality, which in the present case consists in providing nourishment to the patient and alleviation of his suffering.”
You can read Pope John Paul II’s full address here: vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/2004/march/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_20040320_congress-fiamc_en.html
It is often difficult for one to make a decision in these matters. For assistance and counseling in this area contact the National Catholic Bioethics Center: ncbcenter.org/