Learn the Facts

Where to you stand on assisted suicide and euthanasia?

Just as abortion signals a lack of value for the human person at the beginning of life, assisted suicide and euthanasia show this lack of value for a person at the end of life. Each human life is precious and should not be disposed of because of convenience.

While the League seriously opposes assisted suicide and euthanasia, these procedures do not occur at the same magnitude as abortion does (yet), thus our efforts are mainly focused on abortion. We have protested these acts when there is cause, however. For example, read about our involvement in the campaign to prevent the murder of Terri Schiavo (here, here, and here)

If I become seriously injured or disabled, how can I make sure that I won’t be starved to death, like Terri Schiavo was?

To ensure that you will not be starved or allowed to die in the event that you become seriously injured or disabled, you should sign a document that clearly states your wishes to this effect.

Several pro-life organizations have such documents available:

Should I have a Living Will?

No. A Living Will is a signed document (or “declaration” or “directive”) that instructs an attending physician to withhold or withdraw medical interventions from its signer if he is in a terminal condition and is unable to make decisions about medical treatment. In many states, however, even if one’s live can be saved, he can still legally be considered to be in a “terminal condition” if he has a permanent disability of some kind.

In addition, since an attending physician has the power to carry out the signer’s directive, some terms contained within it may be interpreted in a way contrary to the signer’s intentions. For example, one’s request in a Living Will that “extraordinary” means of treatment be withheld could result in his being starved to death if the attending physician considers the provision of food and water “extraordinary”—an increasingly common tendency in the medical profession today.

What type of medical treatment is acceptable for individuals who are seriously ill?

The terms “ordinary” and “extraordinary” are used to distinguish between those decisions that are morally obligatory and those that are morally optional, respectively.

Generally, a medical procedure that has little hope of benefit and is burdensome is considered “extraordinary” and is not obligatory. For example, a person may prudentially determine that the pain and difficulty of an aggressive treatment for terminal cancer is too great to endure, and thus decide to forgo that treatment. Whether a particular treatment is excessively burdensome to an individual patient is a moral question that often requires the advice of a clergyman or someone well versed in moral theology. Individual patients and their families should seek the guidance of the Church whenever there is any doubt about the morality of a particular course of action.

Most medical treatment received during the course of one’s lifetime is routine and does not raise serious moral questions. Occasionally, however, medical circumstances warrant considerable reflection about what procedures are appropriate for a given medical condition. When aggressive and experimental methods are recommended by a physician, one is free to pursue such treatment when there is a reasonable hope of benefit to the patient. One is also free, however, to refuse treatment of dubious benefit or when its burdens clearly outweigh its benefits. The use of extraordinary moral means always remains optional, but the moral obligation to conserve life obliges us simply to act in the most reasonable manner.

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