.- The Bishop of Huelva, Spain is declaring the decision to remove food and water from a 90-year-old comatose woman an act of euthanasia.
“Any action aimed at interrupting food and hydration constitutes an act of euthanasia, in which death is produced not through illness but through the bringing about of hunger and thirst,” Bishop Jose Vilaplana said in an Aug. 26 statement.
Bishop Vilaplana’s comments came in response to a decision by the family members of 90 year-old Ramona Estevez to remove her feeding tube. She suffered a stroke on July 26 that has left her in a coma for over a month.
Estevez has since been hospitalized in the city of Huelva, and on August 23 officials from the health department in the province of Andalusia granted her family members’ request to stop providing food.
Speaking to Europa Press, the woman’s son, Jose Ramon Paez, said the family was carrying out his mother’s wishes. The spokesman for the Socialist Party in Huelva, Mario Jimenez, said the removal of the feeding tube was in accord with the “death with dignity law.”
“The law was followed, which in this country comes before religious ideas,” he said.
A request by the Spanish Right to Life organization to have the feeding tube reinserted was denied. The organization said it would file a lawsuit against the head of Anadalusia’s health department, Maria Jesus Montero, for possibly violating the right to conscientious objection and for criminally withdrawing care from Ramona Estevez.
In his statement, Bishop Vilaplana said, “We must always be on the side of human life, no matter what its stage of development or existential situation.”
“We must support those who are last, the weak, the handicapped, in order to ensure that their rights, especially the right to life, are respected,” he said.
The bishop noted that even though some people have tried to portray the removal of Estevez’s feeding tube as a humane act, “(t)he only duty society has with regards to the sick is help them to live, as life is not something we use and throw away.”
The Huelva bishop also asserted that the dignity of human life “must not be linked to the state of consciousness or unconsciousness of someone who is sick.”
“It is not the duty of a doctor to suspend the food and hydration of a person who is a vegetative state, which is a chronic illness that does not cause death,” he added, noting that health care workers have the right to exercise conscientious objection against such decisions.
“Let us accompany Ramona Estevez during her last days in silence and prayer. With great humility, I pray sincerely to the Lord for the family members and people around her, that they may discover in her the mysterious strength of life, which can be perceived even in the body of someone who is elderly, in a coma and weak, and that they might rethink their decisions,” Bishop Vilaplana said.
“Deliberately seeking out death or inducing it, as Benedict XVI has said so many times, is not the answer to the drama of suffering,” he insisted.