Suicide or not?


It has long been my feeling that, should I contract cancer that is not detected until too late in the day for any treatment but chemo or cobalt to be effective, I would prefer to go to a hospice and let nature take its course rather than go through the agony of a few more years of a life become miserable and wretched. Lately, however, I’ve begun to reconsider my position, as it seems to me that the refusal of medical treatment in this situation could be seen as suicide, albeit in a passive manner. What does the Church say about this? Would I be committing mortal sin to refuse medical treatment?


Dear Jason,

The Church does require that ordinary means of maintaining life (nourishment and hydration) not be denied. However, it does allow the cessation of extraordinary means:

“Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to imped it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 2278

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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