Thursday, August 13, 2015

Bioethics: Our Obligation to Feed and Hydrate the Helpless

It stands to reason that one would avoid the needless suffering of a loved one. Even without delving too deeply into moral theology, one of the most basic precepts of the faith is built upon Christ’s
words “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34, NRSVC). What these basic moral precepts establish is that our love for Christ, and therefore the whole of his Creation, should inform our treatment of others. Many people equate love with a feeling, and while this is not wrong, it is also a very small percentage of what love entails. “It presupposes respect for the fundamental rights that flow from the dignity intrinsic of the person” (CCC 1944). The love that this dignity springs from is a crucial element of any decision making process, it is even more urgent when human lives are at stake; as they are in modern medicine and bioethics. There has been much discussion concerning the ethics of care for those in a persistent vegetative state. The question has been raised whether or not it would be permissible, or perhaps even merciful, to allow those who have been given a grave diagnosis the option of terminating medical care. Essentially, it is a question of whether or not we should allow those with little chance of recovery to die of starvation or dehydration. As with any difficult medical decision where death is an option, the justifications for this are numerous; the primary argument being that it is difficult for the family of the patient, and that the patient’s quality of life is nonexistent. Where the logic of this stance fails is that it disregards the dignity of human life. The Church’s stance on this issue is explicit, unwavering, and rooted in love : “A patient in a ‘permanent vegetative state’ is a person with fundamental human dignity and must, therefore, receive ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food even by artificial means’” (Responses to Certain Questions Concerning Artificial Nutrition and Hydration).

Levada, William Cardinal. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: Responses to Certain Questions Concerning Artificial Nutrition and Hydration. The Holy See.

1 comment:

  1. The flow of the Liturgical Calendar takes us on a journey in which we follow Christ through His birth, ministry, death, and resurrection. It allows us to not only try to live the same type of life as Christ, but to contemplate the actuality of His life chronologically each year.