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Health care purpose

Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, February 25, 2009

By lumping Grandma’s health care treatment together with patients who are in a persistent vegetative state (PVS), Professor Rice misses the point of what’s at stake in providing health care treatment to the elderly (“Catholics and euthanasia”, Feb. 24).

Patients who are in a PVS, such as Terry Schiavo, are usually stable and able to stay alive almost indefinitely if they receive food and water. It is only as to these PVS patients that the Vatican has stated that the denial of food and water, even through a feeding tube, would be a form of euthanasia.

By contrast, very few elderly patients wind up in a PVS. Rather, they suffer from one or more progressive and irreversible illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or cancer. In many such cases, a terminal stage is reached where treatment can no longer prolong life or alleviate suffering.

Nothing in Church teaching, and specifically in the 2007 CDF statement, compels physicians or families to continue with a feeding tube or other forms of artificial nutrition and hydration in those circumstances.

Martin Hagan

alumnus”

class of ’73

Feb. 24