Culture of Love and Life- Life issues

by Joan Crown
Respect Life Office, Archdiocese of Miami

As a Catholic, what care / treatment am I morally bound to?

Catholics must always employ ordinary means of preserving life, but not means that are deemed extraordinary.

What exactly is considered ordinary and what would be extraordinary means of preserving life?

Ordinary means: The Church uses the word proportionate, meaning that it offers a reasonable hope of benefit and does not entail an excessive burden to the patient.

Extraordinary means: The Church uses the word disproportionate, meaning that in the patient’s judgment it does not offer a reasonable hope of benefit or it entails an excessive burden or excessive expense to the patient.   Declaration on Euthanasia, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith 5/5/80

Would food and water, including a feeding tube, always be considered ordinary care?

“Food and water, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act . . . (and) should be considered . . . ordinary and proportionate”.
Pope John Paul II, 3/20/04

“ . . . we are called to provide basic means of sustenance such as food and water unless they are doing more harm than good (body is not able to assimilate) to the patient, or are useless because the patient’s death is imminent”. (Florida Bishops, 2/28/05) (Evangelium Vitae #65, John Paul II)

What does the Church teach in regards to the use / removal of a ventilator / respirator?

If a person is said to be brain-dead, can all life support be removed so the body can shut down?

1980 Uniform Determination of Death Act - model by which states could adopt their own definitions of death stated, “brain death” is defined as the “irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem.” After death, there is no life to support.

Dr. Paul Byrne: “A lot of people think that brain death means flat brain waves and a signal to stop the ventilator...however, brainwave recordings only monitor the outer 1-2 centimeters of the brain; the inner part of the brain isn’t evaluated.”


Mrs. Joan Crown is the Associate Director, Archdiocese of Miami Respect Life Office -Directs the operation of 6 crisis pregnancy centers; Coordinates the “Project Rachel” post-abortion healing program; Coordinator of annual lobby trip to Tallahassee “Catholic Days at the Capito; Supervises the pro-life educational efforts in 14 Catholic high schools and 118 parishes in the Archdiocese and is Editor of the pro-life educational newsletter “The Beginning”.


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