Pope Calls Removal Of Feeding Tubes "Immoral"
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 25, 2004
VATICAN CITY--Pope John Paul II said Saturday that it is immoral to withdraw food and water from people considered to be in vegetative states.
The pontiff spoke on the subject during a conference concerning the ethical dilemmas surrounding people who are considered legally incapacitated because of severe brain injuries. He said that even the terminology, "persistent vegetative state", was degrading, because a person is never a "vegetable" or "animal".
Providing food and water is not artificial medical intervention, the pope said, but is natural, ordinary and appropriate for any person, regardless of how disabled or ill.
Since no one knows when a person in such a state might awaken, "the evaluation of the probability, founded on scarce hope of recovery after the vegetative state has lasted for more than a year, cannot ethically justify the abandonment or the interruption of minimal care for the patient, including food and water," he said.
"If this is knowingly and deliberately carried out, this would result in a true euthanasia by omission," he told the audience.
The conference was organized by the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and the Pontifical Academy for Life.
According to various news sources, John Paul added that families of people such as Terri Schiavo need more economic and emotional support.
Terri, who lives in Tampa, Florida, has been in what some doctors consider a persistent vegetative state since she collapsed and her brain was without oxygen in February 1990. She breathes and regulates her heart and blood pressure on her own, but receives food and water through a gastronomy tube installed through the wall of her stomach. Her husband successfully petitioned the courts to have Terri's feeding tube removed last October. He said his wife told him she would not have wanted to live in her condition.
Terri's parents have fought to keep their daughter alive, claiming that she is aware of her surroundings and responds to them. They enlisted the help of Governor Jeb Bush, who championed a law through the legislature giving him the authority to have Terri's feeding tube reinstalled six days after it had been removed.
The law is being challenged by Terri's husband, who claims the governor violated her right to privacy, along with Florida's constitutional separation of powers.
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation