This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Passive Euthanasia at the Arlington Catholic Herald

Fr. Tad Pacholczyk talks about nutrition and hydration in the Catholic Herald this week. He relates the story of a woman, of told, who had a stroke and was totally unable to communicate. She eventually recovered. You can read the article at http://www.catholicherald.com/opinions/detail.html?sub_id=12801

This underlines the need for making sure that proper diagnostic tools are used before someone is considered too sick to treat. Many people with strokes and in comas still have brain functions. Two-thirds, however, do not.

Fr. Tad mentions Terri Schaivo in passing but still does not acknowledge that the correct thing was done in her situation. Her cerebral cortex had liquefied, as was apparent from both brain scans and from her autopsy. She felt no pain. Indeed, she had been brought back from the dead incompletely. If anything was abhorrent in her care, it is that they worked on her for so long when she should have been allowed to stay dead. Advances in trauma care are making her case less likely, since it seems that inducing hypothermia gives the brain and heart a chance to recover slowly - sudden oxygenation of dying tissues tends to destroy them. Until such advances are universal, however, there must be a different ethic for dealing with those cases where someone has been brought back from what is essentially a natural death, but brought back incompletely. Doctors have already played God and in such cases, all interventions should be withdrawn as quickly as possible.

Fr. Tad speaks of Passive Euthanasia rather derisively. I recall that in the time of Karen Ann Quinlan, it was the ethical term of art for those cases where it was perfectly legitimate in the eyes of the Church to stop extraordinary measures. The ethics on this really has not changed much, only the irresponsible use of language by those who wish to make doctrine by press release.

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