If you ever encounter one of those thorny end-of-life issues, and want to understand Church teaching on it, you can't do better than Fr. Tad Pacholczyk of the National Catholic Bioethics Center.He has a great collection of essays on current issues in bioethics on their website,
entitled, "Making Sense Out of Bioethics".
His recent article on Catholic Exchange, about the mercy killing of patients in a New Orleans hospital during the horrific aftermath of Hurricane Katrina clarifies what the Church thinks about the actions of Dr. Anna Maria Pou.
"While the debate continues as to what Dr. Pou did or did not do, compassion and heroism should never be confused with intentionally overdosing patients or loved ones in order to end their lives. The act of directly taking innocent human life is always incompatible with true compassion."
The World Over had a show last week, available in the online catalogue where Fr Pochalczyk had an enlightening discussion with on the Vatican 's recent clarification about what constitutes extraordinary means of keeping someone alive, and what is considered just standard care. The Saginaw Seminarians had a great post on the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith's clarification on this issue.
Food and water, given by whatever means, unless the patient is actively dying, is ordinary care, and may NOT be witheld, as it was in the case of Terri Schindler Schiavo, who could have lived for many more years, and even responded to therapy (if her husband had permitted it) yet she was deliberately dehydrated to death at a young age. According to the Vatican, this is MURDER. Is that clearly stated enough? Let's hope that Catholics avail themselves of this information, so that when their turn comes to make these decisions, they can do so with the wisdom of the Church, and not some nurse who took a misguided course in medical ethics.
I have entered into heated discussions with nurses in my family who insist that "Terri's soul had left her body because she was on life support". Nonsense! Only someone who had no religious formation in the Catholic faith would believe that fairy tale! The Schindlers knew better and so did Br. O'Donnell, pictured here with Terri's sister, Suzanned Vitadamo. They were just awarded the Proudly Pro-life Award for their heroic efforts to save Terri.
During "The World Over", a caller mentioned that she has lived a full life, going to Mass, and visiting her family all while using a feeding tube. Has her soul left her body? Terri Schiavo had no more extensive treatment than this woman, the only difference is that she couldn't talk to defend herself. That is why it is crucial that we, while we still have our faculties, assign someone who believes as we do in the Church's teaching on end-of-life issues, as our health care proxy. Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life has suggestions on his website.
If you find yourself embroiled in one of these end-of-life discussions, arm yourself with the truth to cut through all the "care in dying" rhetoric provided by the Culture of Death.