The Case of Terri Schiavo

In view of the continuing controversy over the case of Terri Schiavo, the ethicists of The National Catholic Bioethics Center would like to reiterate their firm conviction that food and water should be provided for all patients who suffer PVS unless it fails to sustain life or causes suffering. We make this judgment based on the Catholic moral tradition, on the 1992 statement of the Pro-Life Secretariat of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops dealing with hydration and nutrition for patients in PVS, on years of consideration of comparable cases and in view of Pope John Paul II’s March 2004 allocution on life sustaining measures for patients in a persistent vegetative state. In general, the provision of nutrition and hydration to the patient in PVS is proportionate and morally obligatory. Removal of food and water is permissible only when they no longer attain the ends for which they are provided.

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