The patient, he said, was also known to be “religiously conservative, opposed to abortion, even for an unborn child likely to be medically compromised, and was opposed to euthanasia.”
Despite the well-attested views of the patient, “the Court declared food and fluids not to be in the best interests of RS because he had previously stated that ‘he never wanted to be a burden if he was seriously ill.’”
According to Jones, to think or say that one does not want to be a burden to others is very common. “Who wishes to be kept alive by extraordinary treatment if they are ‘beyond saving?’” he said. “But it does not follow that, if one unfortunately did end up in a situation of great dependence, one would as a result prefer to discontinue all treatment and even basic care.”
“These statements therefore should not be taken to license the deprivation of food and water from someone in a coma or a minimally conscious state,” he continued. “In particular, someone who is strongly committed to the teaching of the Catholic Church may make these or similar statements and yet regard food and water, however provided, as part of basic care rather than a medical treatment.”
Jones pointed to the thought of St. Pope John Paul II on the topic, as expressed in his 2004 address on “Life-sustaining treatments and the vegetative state.”
Speaking in the context of a patient who is unconscious, John Paul II said: “I should like particularly, to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such 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. The obligation to provide ‘the normal care due to the sick’ in such cases includes, in fact, the use of nutrition and hydration.”
Jones commented: “It seems that all the judges in the case took for granted that statements about sustaining life referred equally and without distinction to medical treatment and to food and fluids.”
“Rejection of life sustaining treatment by a Catholic patient should not be presumed to include clinically assisted nutrition and hydration unless explicitly stated,” he explained.
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