Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Worried Response To the Bishops' Directives.

Bioethicist Dr. Tarris Rosell weighs in on the new ANH directive coming out of the Catholic church:

On November 17, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted 214-4 "to strengthen its requirement that Roman Catholic hospitals insert and maintain nutrition and hydration tubes for patients in persistent vegetative states."

The rule appears to be that all patients in vegetative states would be sustained on life support, even contrary to their own wishes or that of a surrogate, unless they already are deemed "close to inevitable death from underlying conditions." (Modern Healthcare, http://www.modernhealthcare.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091117/REG/311179934#)

Ever since the Terri Schiavo controversies, and Pope John Paul II's allocution of March 20, 2004, there have been rumblings of potential action of this sort by the bishops. Apparently, this is it.

Now comes the aftermath in Catholic hospitals, predicted to be anything from widespread noncompliance to what one canon law expert said could be "a whole series of Terri Schiavo cases." (Paul Danello, quoted by Joe Carson in Modern Healthcare,


Would it really matter whether the diagnosis was incurable cancer or irreversible neurological damage? Why limit this religious healthcare directive just to brain injury? Perhaps the bishops' orders will be applied more broadly than to treatment of those in vegetative states. I wonder.

What other particular situations will arise that place patients and compassionate caregivers in conflict with a blanket order from a powerful religious minority group? Will patient
s now shy away from receiving care at the faith based hospital they have known and trusted for years? Again, I wonder.

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