Vatican City, Sep 14, 2007 / 08:00 am
With end-of-life issues receiving an increasing amount of attention in recent years, the bishops of the United States sent a series of questions to the Vatican about providing food and water to those near death. Today the Vatican published its response to these questions and implicitly condemned the treatment of Terri Schiavo, a comatose Florida woman who was starved to death when her husband and doctors withheld food from her.
The replies to the questions posed by the bishops were published in a document issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and were approved by the Holy Father.
The first question the bishops asked was: “Is the administration of food and water (whether by natural or artificial means) to a patient in a 'vegetative state' morally obligatory except when they cannot be assimilated by the patient's body or cannot be administered to the patient without causing significant physical discomfort?”
The CDF replied that, “Yes. The administration of food and water even by artificial means is, in principle, an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving life. It is therefore obligatory to the extent to which, and for as long as, it is shown to accomplish its proper end, which is the hydration and nourishment of the patient. In this way suffering and death by starvation and dehydration are prevented.”