During this week's Fall General Assembly, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops approved revision guidelines for medically assisted nutrition and hydration, particularly for patients in a vegetative state.
The USCCB's Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services revision passed with 219 bishops in favor, 4 opposed and 1 abstaining.
The revised directive takes into account teachings from the late Pope John Paul II and the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith and states in stronger terms the need to provide food and water to patients in a persistent vegetative state.
“As a general rule, there is an obligation to provide patients with food and water, including medically assisted nutrition and hydration for those who cannot take food orally. This obligation extends to patients in chronic conditions (e.g. the 'persistent vegetative state') who can reasonably be expected to live indefinitely if given such care,” states the revised directive.
Given cases like that of Terry Schiavo, who died in 2005 when her feeding tube was removed, the need for stronger terminology and a more definitive stance on the issue from U.S. bishops had become apparent.