Catholic Healthcare Systems To Maintain Existing Policies On Compliance With Advance Directives

Author:Mr Jason Pinkall
Profession:Vinson & Elkins L.L.P.

In follow-up to a declaration by Pope John Paul II that removal of feeding tubes from patients in a persistent vegetative state constitutes "euthanasia by omission," the Associated Press reports that Catholic health care systems in the U.S. intend to continue honoring living wills, notwithstanding the Pope's declaration, until they receive further guidance on the issue. Although the Pope's remarks are significant from an ethical, legal, clinical, and pastoral point of view, they do not carry the weight of an encyclical, the Vatican's most authoritative level of instruction. Accordingly, dialogue between bishops and health care providers is necessary in order to determine the specific implications of the declaration, and ultimately, to provide further guidance or clarifications on the issue. Such guidance or clarifications would not be anticipated for several months.

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