Flat lining

What is the Church’s teaching on intervening in ones death by artificial means such as paddles, medicine, etc?

It’s okay to do, obviously, but not necessary should the person say beforehand that they don’t want that. Defibrillation is certainly in the realm of “extraordinary means”.

And I know this is beside your main point, but FYI defibrillation isn’t done when someone is dead (despite what you see in the movies).

It is acceptable, and I would even say encouraged, to use medical interventions to save the life of a person who is dying, or to prolong their life with treatment and medicine. Life-saving or life-prolonging treatments are, generally speaking, good. Withholding such treatments could even be immoral.

Is there a reason why you are concerned about this? Is someone you love experiencing a medical crisis?

No, this is just what I think of when we speak of NFP Vs. some artificial birth control By medically intervening we are possible going against God’s plan for us to go to heaven when He wanted us to, and by using any form of birth control we are trying to intervene in stopping a pregnancy He may want for us. Of course, in either situation God can get what He wants anyway. I just not sure how people rationalize the two.

I am sure we go against God’s plan for us on a daily basis without even know we do it.

Okay, so this is just a thread for exploring a topic. Good. I am glad you or a loved one are not facing this issue.
Yes, we certainly do go against God’s plan for us on an everyday basis. There are the things the Church talks about with regards to this: everyday faults or imperfections, venial sins, and mortal sins. Well, most medicine and medical treatments are good, with the exception of things that harm instead of heal, or things that heal one person by harming another (organ transplant from a living victim instead of a deceased donor, as an example). So no sin there. And the intent to avoid pregnancy, if one has just/serious reasons is not sinful. So then the question is dealing not with the intent, but with the means. How we accomplish our goals is every bit as important as the nature of our goals. In the case of contraception, one is either taking drugs or having a procedure done to sterilize the body (the means is a process that damages the body) or one is using a barrier between husband and wife (which means that a certain aspect of the spouse is rejected). These are sins of grave matter, and if full knowledge and consent of the will is present, they can be mortal sins.
But there is a moral way to avoid pregnancy: abstinence, either complete or periodic, whichever the couple feels is right for them. Some couples actually do choose complete abstinence, while others are grateful for the periodic option. There is no sin involved with abstaining from sex completely. The use of periodic continence (NFP), which allows the couple to continue to enjoy marital relations, needs to be based upon just/serious reasons, because they are enjoying a good of marriage, while avoiding one of the natural ends of sexual intercourse, by only engaging in the act during the infertile times. Selfishness is the sin that the Church cautions us to avoid with respect to use of NFP.
I would enjoy hearing your response, shelbysun. I know this is a topic that is close to your heart. Did I adequately address the issue from the angle you used to open the topic?

God has made it clear time and time again, both implicitly and explicitly that life is a good thing. So long as it is done via moral means, it will never be against “God’s plan” for us to try and prolong life, be it ours or someone else’s. Keep in mind that avoiding making a decision is still, ironically enough, a decision. If someone is dying in front of you, it doesn’t make any sense to just sit back and do nothing for fear of going against God’s plan.

Of course, I wouldn’t just sit back, I was just wondering if the Church had an official teaching on the subject.

What about keeping someone alive on machines who would otherwise die? Is it OK for someone to have a DNR even though they are not ill?

Yes, covered it very well. Thank you. I just had a friend who almost had to make the decision to take him daughter off life support, but after 2 months in ICU she made an unbelievable turn around with dedication of some fantastic doctors. Then I have seen others who have had children who have been on life support for years brain dead. I just didn’t know if the Church comments on those subjects. Both very hard to handle.

What difficult situations! Oh dear God, give Your strength and consolation to parents going through such trials. :gopray:

Yes the Church does have teachings addressing things such as life support, feeding tubes, DNRs, CPR, and so on. I unfortunately do not remember where I read them. What I recall is that medical care that is considered ordinary care may not be denied to any patient, although the patient may choose to reject even ordinary care if the treatment would cause greater complications and pain than the process of dying causes them. Hydration and nourishment would fall under ordinary care, as an example. In a situation where someone’s death is imminent and unavoidable, the patient may reject food, because they cannot swallow, and they may reject a feeding tube, because the surgery to place the tube could lead to infection without substantially prolonging their life. That is an example of when they might decide to reject ordinary care. But the ordinary care must not be denied them, if they will accept it.
Regarding extraordinary care, those are things that go beyond basic care of the body, involving greater intervention and greater risk sometimes. A patient is free to reject extraordinary care, too. I do not know the morality of a DNR order, when one is not terminally ill at the time of drawing up the order. That is a good question. I believe that a DNR order is morally acceptable if the patient is terminally ill at the time, but I could be wrong. I think that CPR can be considered extraordinary care.
Perhaps someone else will be able to provide you with more certain information and resources.

It’s pretty easy to find the teachings. Here is one link:

Wow, that is perfect! Thank you. I didn’t know that EWTN had that kind of resource.

Thank you.

Thank you also.


It looks like this has pretty much been settled, but just to add one more thing: it is not only okay but encouraged to make an advanced directive when you’re not ill. In fact everyone should have one. I’m a nurse, and trust me it saves family members a lot of painful decisions if this has been discussed already when the unexpected happens.

You are absolutely right, we have which is why I ask the question. We went about it on personal common beliefs and then someone asked about the Church’s stance, which wasn’t considered beforehand. Now they are satisfied. Thank you.

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