Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

The Father William Most Collection

Problems of Artificial Feeding

1. Declaration of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, May 5, 1980: "... is it necessary in all circumstances to have recourse to all possible remedies? In the past, moralists replied that one is never obliged to use 'extraordinary' means. This reply, which as a principle still holds good, is perhaps less clear today, by reason of the imprecision of the term and the rapid progress made in the treatment of sickness. Thus some people prefer to speak of 'proportionate' and 'disproportionate' means. In any case, it will be possible to make a correct judgment as to the means by studying the type of treatment to be used, its degree of complexity or risk, its cost and the possibilities of using it, and comparing these elements with the result that can be expected, taking into account the state of the sick person and his or her physical and moral resources."

2. Catholic Theologians' application of the above to feeding done by tube and/or the use of a respirator: There are two schools of thought:

a) Some will ask the question: Is it permissible to starve someone to death? -- If the question is put that way, the answer will be: No. They will add: food is always an ordinary means, even if the way of giving it is extraordinary.

b) Some will ask the question: If there is no hope at all of recovery and the patient is unconscious and unable to take food by himself/herself, is the family obliged to provide this means for a long period, and is the sick one obliged to submit to it? Put this way, many solid theologians will say: It is not required. The burden is too great, all out of proportion to the hope of good to be obtained. As the Sacred Congregation pointed out in the above quotation, we consider not only ordinary vs extraordinary, but also the proportionate results, compared to the difficulty, expense, and care of providing it.

3. Statement of U. S. Bishops, checked by Cardinal Ratzinger (from: National Catholic Reporter, April 10, 1992, a Resource Paper, released April 2): "nutrition and hydration 'must not be withdrawn in order to cause death', yet they 'may be withdrawn if they offer no reasonable hope of sustaining life, or pose excessive risks or burdens.'"

END

[Top]
Subscribe for free
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org
Shop Amazon

Recent Catholic Commentary

Church Fathers: The Other Greek Apologists 7 hours ago
Mysteries, again and again! April 17
Tips for getting comfortable with evangelization April 17
The Shroud of Turin on Display (and an odd canonical case against it) April 16
The Vatican says the LCWR is acting Catholic. And that's news. April 16

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Pope challenges world leaders' silence on persecution of Christians CWN - April 6
Pope outlines plans for the extraordinary jubilee of mercy CWN - April 13
Vatican completes doctrinal assessment of Leadership Conference of Women Religious CWN - April 16