Intentional Nursing Home Starvation choice-Is this suicide?


Woman who is not terminal, and fully aware of what she is doing, makes a decision to intentionally refuse water or food in order to die in the nursing home in which she resides.

Her major stroke only affected her bad side and not the side she uses to write with, as well as hold utensils and cups.

Despite having some difficulty with swallowing, she chooses to refuse nutrition in any way, no matter how helpful it is prepared for her to be able to eat it.

Fearing chocking to death, she refuses most food, until she finally decides to refuse all food.

Highly intelligent and educated as a nurse herself, she writes about her experiences in her journals, and makes it clear to her team that she does not want any help from any device, such as a naso-gastric tube.

Her care team honors her requests, moves her to hospice in order to keep her comfortable, and she slowly passes away from severe dehydration and starvation.

Would a Catholic priest deem this as suicide? or would Catholic teachings?

Please support any arguments inf you can, with links, videos, Catholic teaching and so on.

Thank you ahead of time.

Not sure what else to say except:
there is nasal tube which is used when person cannot eat. In this case person don’t need to swallow food and still can get all nutrition. So, she won’t end up dead.

I don’t know how would it be possible to not to get n-tube in this case.

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Is this something that actually happened, or a made-up scenario?

Because it is highly unlikely that this would happen in real life unless the woman was on some kind of a politically motivated hunger strike, like Bobby Sands and his friends. Outside that context, starvation and dehydration are an awful way to die and are unlikely to be chosen by someone unless they are suffering from some mental illness like anorexia nervosa.

If she were doing this as a form of political protest, then she would likely have to consult individually with a priest about it.

If she were just doing this because she felt like killing herself, it would be considered suicide and treated accordingly by the Church. Whether she ended up with a feeding tube or not would depend on the laws in place concerning the so-called “right to die” , “living wills” etc.


Intentionally causing your death is suicide.

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A Catholic priest said that God in His mercy allowed her into heaven as she was elderly and suffering and tired, and that she just wanted to go home to her savior, although she was not Catholic at the time of her death, but Protestant.

Interesting debate as to what happened as this is a real situation that happened to someone in her '80’s.

Mind you, she was a former nurse and sharp mentally and chose to do this.

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She refused, as was her right, any devices assisting her in staying alive.

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Do you have an actual written source including the actual quote by the actual priest?

I suspect the priest may have thought that her culpability for sin was reduced by stress from her situation and potential brain damage from the stroke. Strokes have an effect on the brain that can go beyond the obvious visible signs. I know this because my father lived for 11 years after a major stroke and there were stroke support groups and stuff that explained this. People with strokes are often more prone to mental diseases such as depression.

Regardless, it’s still suicide what she did. The only issue is whether her culpability is reduced and God is merciful and forgives her sin.


This priest shared his thoughts on this matter with me personally, so now, I have to deal with this issue myself during a time for which no one seems to actually care about what happened to her other than myself.

2 years later, shes still not buried nor any memorial or stone, as no one wants to be a part of this at all and have left me to decide what to do.

She harmed a lot of her own family, so no one was interested in helping on what to do with the body and so on.

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Suicide, then?

Fed ex delivered her in a cardboard box, as cremation was all I had the money for, and was totally lost and terrified as to what to do, and no one in the family would assist me either with anything at all.

@mary15, I refer you to the Catechism sections on euthanasia and suicide:

Paragraph 2278 teaches that discontinuing treatment may be morally acceptable when “one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted.” That does not apply in the case where food and drink would sustain life.

Also see, from 2282-2283, “Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide,” and “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.”

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Thank you, this is very helpful. Grave disturbances and suffering is perhaps what the priest thought allowed her to be forgiven.

However, then, would those in great mental agony be forgiven, such as Judas Iscariot?

I hope my earlier post was not insensitive. I did not know you were personally involved and know the deceased person.

I will pray for her, that she may rest in peace, and for your peace and consolation as well.


Its a general forum query on the topic for all to consider in the general sense.

that she was my mom is an aside to the point of this discussion, as I wanted Catholic imput.

Please share on the general topic of the OP, thanks!

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Is this your relative or friend? If so, I’m sorry. I will pray for her and entrust her to God’s loving care. Edited to add, I see it was your mom, so I’ll have a Mass said for her.

Like I said, stroke victims are under tremendous stress and their brains are likely emotionally/ logically affected by the stroke even if they appear to be reasonably sharp mentally.
I have great sympathy for anyone who has had a close loved one suffer a stroke, it was very hard on me as a teenager to see what happened to my dad even though he came out of it relatively well and was able to walk with a cane and go back to work for a few more years. He still wasn’t the same, ever.

And yes, it is possible God was merciful to Judas. We do not know Judas’s mental state. We do not know if he repented at the last minute when it was too late for him to save himself. We do not know if he internally called out to Jesus or God at the very last second. We entrust Judas to God’s mercy and I have prayed for his soul as well.

P.S. there is nothing wrong with what the priest said either, as long as he was addressing an individual case (which it sounds like he was) from a pastoral standpoint, and not making some big statement in favor of the “right to die” generally.


@Tis_Bearself, thanks! good points to consider. She was a brilliant nurse, but suffered badly most of her life from despair (mom), so her brain being damaged in the emotional centers would make logical sense to me, yet cant explain her terrible, lifelong struggle either.

Judas in in Gods care then., amen

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I still think the staff are culpable to God at least?

Perhaps, perhaps not. Staff must follow orders; perhaps they were afraid for their jobs, perhaps they were not Catholic and thus ignorant of the teachings.
We pray for them as well. I’m sure it wasn’t a pleasant or easy experience for many, if not all, of them.

The question of Judas comes up here at CAF from time to time. There is no doubt that he was filled with regret. If he was also filled with love, as I hope, then he will be well.

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We don’t know but we can certainly hope.

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