I know someone who said they are going to sign a "do not resuscitate" order. Is this a sin and against Catholic teaching?
Would it not depend on the circumstances?
I think we struggle with death in our medicalised society. When there are medical options available we struggle to know when not to use those interventions, and when to let God’s calling of a person back to Him run its natural course. The Church’s teachings obviously lean towards continuing life, but perhaps as medical technology develops we need to have more conversations on how and when to decide to let people die peacefully and in a non-medicalised way.
More may have been written since then or further details etc…one can contact them there.
Just a personal sharing here, a few years ago my grandfather had finally given in to his cancer. He was rushed to the hospital and I remember getting the call from my mother at the time, telling me to pray for him. He was put onto life support and monitored overnight, and afterwards, I had a call from mum (she was with him all the way back in the Philippines at the time) and she told me that her and her two siblings had decided to sign the “Do Not Resuscitate” form. She said that as much as we all wanted to hold on and have him here, we had to let him go back to God as well. For her, and I agree with her in this instance, it was not a sin to let him go, my grandfather was already coming to the end of his life, he’d lived a very full life, and it was his time. He would have died much sooner had it not been for the medicine helping fight his cancer, but the medicine was no longer helping.
I suppose to echo an earlier reply, it really depends on the circumstances.
A do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order is for people who do not want their lives dragged out indefinitely by “aggressive” medical treatment when they have come to their natural conclusion. Here in the UK, DNRs are usually only adopted by/for patients with serious and deteriorating long-term health problems.
My grandfather-in-law had a DNR order towards the end of his life. He was very unwell and in end-stage heart failure, so when he was taken into hospital for the last time, the DNR meant that he was not whisked away from his family and needlessly stuck on a ventilator. Instead, he died peacefully and comfortably with all of us at his bedside.
(It is also worth pointing out that “do not resuscitate” does not mean “do not treat”! The person will still be fed, hydrated, given appropriate therapies and pain relief, etc.)
In and of itself, and under the typical circumstances in which DNRs are issued, no. However, if the patient has a reasonable chance of recovery and the treatment options are not UNDULY burdensome, resuscitation may be considered “ordinary care” in which case it would be mandatory. However, if the patient is at the end of their natural life, no reasonable chance of recovery exists and/or the treatment options would be considered UNDULY burdensome, resuscitation would be considered “extra ordinary care” and would not be required.
I believe the Church's actual teaching is:
Natural conception, Natural death.
So, technically, a DNR in any circumstance would be OK.
I just did a google search for "Catholic position on dnr", and got some great results. Several being from this website alone.
Back in 2002 I was notified that my brother who was 2 years younger than me was in a diabetic coma and was being kept alive on life support.
He was not married, and I was his only living relative, our parents having passed some time before. When I talked to the doctors at the hospital, I found that the chances for him coming out of the coma were almost nil, and even if he did there was over a 90% chance that he would be a living vegetable.
After getting all the medical information possible, I ordered “the plug pulled”. The financial aspect of his care was not an issue because he was retired from the Navy and his medical care was being taken care of by the VA.
Even though my brother and I were not close as adults, it was a difficult decision to make, even though in our family we were taught by our parents, that keeping someone alive by artificial means when there was little hope of recovery was something that was obscene. It was considered to be an offense against G*d because it was interferring with His will.
I would expect no less from my sons when my time comes!
Let me offer my sincere condolences on the loss of your brother.
I can relate to what you said here. I had to “unplug” my Mother several years ago, on Christmas Eve, of all times.
In 1999 my father died of bone cancer. We signed a DNR order on him.
He would have been in a lot of pain with no hope if he had lived longer.
As it was he died peacefully before the pain was too bad to be controlled.
I do not believe there is anything wrong about signing a DNR when needed.
Resus techniques were designed mostly in the 50s for young people and middle aged individuals who had sudden heart and respitatory attacks. Today, people are living longer and have multiple medical histories. Doing resus on an 75 year old with heart disease and diabetes is cruel and oftentimes futile.
It is no sin to let nature take its course.
There’s an incredible amount of ignorance about resus and what it actually involves. I’ve seen family members screaming at medical staff to stop resus on family members in their late 80s with huge medical problems, all because the family member who held POA told the staff to continue. It went on for several hours, and was truly horrific. But what could the medical staff do? Stop resus and get sued, their names dragged through the media as “playing God” and “deciding who lives and dies?” [A case happened just a few years ago in NZL].
I honestly think anyone over 70 with medical problems should be automatically DNR. Its simply acknowleding that life has come to an end and its best to let nature take its course.
The other issue is people see DNR and they immediately think their relative is going to be left to starve in a faeces stained hospital bed left without care or compassion. This is not the case. DNR simply means if they have a heart attack, you don’t rush to jump on their chest. They can still have all other treatements. IVABs, Oxygen, feeding tubes, even operations.
And if medical staff manage to pull some 80 year old lady back with a DNR, its never pretty.
People are scared of death, people are scared to let go of relatives in the end stage of their life. A DNR is not euthanasia, it is not sinful.
Heck, I tell people that if I go down for the count, stop resus attempts after 6 minutes.