last will

My mother in law wrote a letter asking that in her last days she do not want us to extend her life. What is the minimum that should be done to avoid making eutanacia ?

“Ordinary care” is always required. This means food and water.

There is no moral obligation to do any more than this, even if it would extend a person’s life. (Assuming the person in question consents, of course.) Also, it is fine to give a person drugs to make them more comfortable as they pass, even if such drugs would shorten their life (note: SHORTEN, not END).

Hope that helps put your mind at ease.

True, and if I might add, shortening the life is not to be the primary intention, but rather the side effect of the medication or treatment.

Yes, exactly. Thanks for clarifying.


  1. In principle, there is an obligation to provide patients with food and water, including medically assisted nutrition and hydration for those who cannot take food orally. This obligation extends to patients in chronic and presumably irreversible conditions (e.g., the “persistent vegetative state”) who can reasonably be expected to live indefinitely if given such care.40 Medically assisted nutrition and hydration become morally optional when they cannot reasonably be expected to prolong life or when they would be “excessively burdensome for the patient or [would] cause significant physical discomfort, for example resulting from complications in the use of the means employed.”41 For instance, as a patient draws close to inevitable death from an underlying progressive and fatal condition, certain measures to provide nutrition and hydration may become excessively burdensome and therefore not obligatory in light of their very limited ability to prolong life or provide comfort.

The best resource for theologically sound answer to your question would be The National Catholic Bioethics Center. They offer emergency consultations and can answer your questions via email.


Good point - thanks. Hopefully if this becomes an issue, OP will consult with a priest. He should be able to give some guidance.

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