Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Euthanasia and other evils back on the table

And if the assault on the family wasn't enough, the Green's Bob Brown has a private members bill on Euthanasia currently under consideration by a Senate Committee.

But equally worrying is the story a friend has alerted me to, that Senator Nicola Roxon, Minister for Health, is about to be presented with guidelines from the Government's Australian Health Ethics Committee encouraging families to withhold nourishment from unresponsive patients so as to allow them to die:

According to Brisbane's Courier Mail, "Families will be encouraged by the Federal Government to let their "unresponsive'' loved ones die if their medical treatment is costly and futile."

"The guidelines centre on withdrawing treatment _ such as tube-feeding _ from coma or brain-dead patients if procedures are "risky, intrusive, destructive, exhausting, painful or repugnant" and cost outweighs benefit or success. [So continuing to feed your ageing parent or sick partner can be more 'repugnant' than starving them to death?]

The Government's Australian Health Ethics Committee has drafted separate papers for families and health professionals, and advises educating the community about treatment that can be "overburdensome". [to whom?] The guidelines only apply to patients in post-coma unresponsiveness (PCU) and a minimally responsive state (MRS). Some PCU patients, who have had a brain injury, drug overdose or stroke, appear to sleep and wake normally but show no signs they are aware or do not speak or respond. A minimally responsive state is where a patient comes out of a coma and provides random responses such as blinking or moving a finger."

Such an approach, of course, runs directly counter to Catholic teaching. In fact, in 2007, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith made some responses to questions from the US bishops on these very questions:


The document reads as follows:

"First question: Is the administration of food and water (whether by natural or artificial means) to a patient in a “vegetative state” morally obligatory except when they cannot be assimilated by the patient’s body or cannot be administered to the patient without causing significant physical discomfort?

Response: Yes. The administration of food and water even by artificial means is, in principle, an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving life. It is therefore obligatory to the extent to which, and for as long as, it is shown to accomplish its proper finality, which is the hydration and nourishment of the patient. In this way suffering and death by starvation and dehydration are prevented.

Second question: When nutrition and hydration are being supplied by artificial means to a patient in a “permanent vegetative state”, may they be discontinued when competent physicians judge with moral certainty that the patient will never recover consciousness?

Response: No. 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."

Get ready for the fight.

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