.- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have issued their long-awaited statement on the case of Terri Schindler Schiavo in support of continued treatment and care. The 41-year-old Florida woman has been physically and cognitively disabled for more than a decade. Unable to eat for herself, she has been kept alive with feeding tubes. Her husband recently won a long court battle, giving him the right to remove the feeding tubes.
The court set March 18 as the date for the tubes to be removed. It will likely take weeks before Schiavo starves to death. However, Schiavo’s parents and siblings and numerous pro-life groups and leaders have been fighting to keep her alive.
The Schiavo case has also focused national attention to the moral debate about withholding nutrition and hydration from people with cognitive disabilities.
In a statement released March 9, William Cardinal Keeler, chairman of the USCCB’s Pro-Life Activities, said the USCCB agrees with the Florida bishops’ Feb. 28 statement that Schiavo should “continue to receive all treatments and care that will be of benefit to her.”
The Cardinal stressed Church teaching on nutrition and hydration, citing a speech by Pope John Paul II, who last year said people who “find themselves in the clinical condition of a ‘vegetative state’ retain their human dignity in all its fullness” and the right to basic health care (nutrition, hydration, cleanliness, warmth, etc.).
The Pope said providing water and food, even by artificial means, is “morally obligatory, insofar as and until it is seen to have attained its proper finality, which in the present case consists in providing nourishment to the patient and alleviation of his suffering.”
“There are times when even such basic means may cease to be morally obligatory, because they have become useless or unduly burdensome for the patient,” the cardinal explained.
But he added that “deliberately to remove them in order to hasten a patient’s death … would be a form of euthanasia, which is gravely wrong.”
The Cardinal said he joins the Florida bishops in praying that those who hold power over Schiavo’s life will see that she continues to receive nourishment and care.
For the full statement, go to: