.- In the wake of the recent death of Terri Schiavo and the new national discussion on living wills, Bishop Robert Morlino of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin is trying to clarify the Church’s position on the wills and keep faithful out of mortal sin.
Bishop Morlino noted the question in his most recent Catholic Herald column that the Terri Schiavo case has raised “as to the human dignity of a person who is medically termed to be in a persistent or permanent vegetative state.”
He said, “I fear that the connotation is carried that a person is somehow reduced to a vegetable. The fact that a person is gravely ill and disabled could never make that person anything less than a person - such a person should never be treated as a vegetable.”
Noting that Schiavo was not terminally ill or necessarily close to death, the bishop said that, “Such a person has no "right to die" any more than any other person because there is no such right.”
“To intend suicide”, he stressed, “should one ever be found to be diagnosed as permanently unconscious is gravely immoral - to sign a living will ordering one's own death if one were diagnosed as permanently unconscious, but not terminally ill and not close to death, is a mortal sin in other words.”
Although many have claimed throughout the Schiavo ordeal that living wills could prevent the kind of scenario that the world watched in Florida, Bishop Morlino says that this is simply not the case.
“The fact that food and water are provided by artificial means does not mean that food and water are no longer food and water,” he added. “This is the clear teaching of our deceased Holy Father John Paul the Great. He taught us by his own death that a very weak and disabled human life ought to be treasured.”