“A decision against offering a certain life-prolonging treatment to an individual must never be a judgement based on the worthwhileness of that person’s life, including their age or other social characteristics, but a pragmatic decision about the likelihood of him/her benefiting from the intervention given their medical condition,” the bishops said.
They added that this principle was enshrined in the NHS Constitution, as well as case law.
“Until the current pandemic, resources have always been allocated according to medical need and benefit to the patient,” they said. “Today this approach must be complemented by maximizing scarce resources for the common good, and so prognosis, and the likelihood of benefit, becomes the overriding criteria.”
The bishops said they had spoken out in response to those expressing concern about whether they or their loved ones would receive life support at a time of “medical rationing.”
“While we would all agree that the allocation of resources must be done as fairly as possible, the criteria of fairness must be clear and shared by us all,” they said. “These principles apply both morally and in the law which governs our expectations and rights on health and social care.”
“As Catholics, our starting point is that we are all made equally in the image of God (CCC 357). Human value is not a measure of our mental or physical capacity, our societal function, our age, our health or of any other qualitative assessment. God made each of us and in so doing gave us all equal dignity and value. This is never lost during sickness or dying.”