View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Vatican and Nana: Feeding the vegetative

I read about the latest statement from the Vatican about food and water for people in vegetative states.

The statement makes clear that the Church opposes the removal of food and water - as happened in the Terry Schiavo case.

That had always been my understanding of the teaching, but the article brought back a memory from something that happened a year ago.

At that time, my Nana was fading, though she had certainly not reached a vegetative state. Her doctor had suggested she might only have a few weeks or months left.

The staff at her nursing home suggested that we consider hospice services to give her a higher level of care in her final days.

I met with the home social worker and the hospice person. Everything went well until we got to the food part.

Their policies called for ending feeding at a certain point. I objected and said it was against Church teachings. I cited some documents, including ones put out by the U.S. Bishops. They had not read them, but they assured me that they had consulted various religious ethicists - including Catholic one - and that what they were proposing was permitted.

I continued to object, and they said it was my choice (I was Nana's proxy). They said they would check further, but added that if I refused to sign the document, then she could not get the added comfort care the hospice program permitted.

We went back and forth for a couple of weeks. I was planning to meet with one of the ethicists from the Diocese of Rochester.

Then the discussion became moot: Nana died peacefully in her sleep.

They discovered that when they came to her room to get her ready for breakfast.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lee, when the human body begins to die, the digestive system shuts down. It is part of the dying process. Sometimes that dying can be circumvented by medical or other means.

Hospice personnel do not starve people to death, but they are trained to recognize and respond appropriately when people reduce their food intake or refuse food altogether.


1:14 PM  

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