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Vatican Affirms Church Teaching on Nutrition and Hydration for Individuals In 'Vegetative State'
Date:9/14/2007

is the possibility excluded that, due to emerging complications, a patient may be unable to assimilate food and liquids, so that their provision becomes altogether useless. Finally, the possibility is not absolutely excluded that, in some rare cases, artificial nourishment and hydration may be excessively burdensome for the patient or may cause significant physical discomfort, for example resulting from complications in the use of the means employed."

"These exceptional cases, however, take nothing away from the general ethical criterion, according to which the provision of water and food, even by artificial means, always represents a natural means for preserving life, and is not a therapeutic treatment. Its use should therefore be considered ordinary and proportionate, even when the 'vegetative state' is prolonged," it added.

The bishops asked the Holy See for clarification of the Church's teaching after Pope John Paul II's address on March 20, 2004, to an international congress sponsored by the Pontifical Academy for Life and the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations.

"We are grateful that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith responded to our request with such a thorough investigation and explanation," Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut, chair of the U.S. bishops' Committee for Doctrine, said in introducing the Response. "We hope the Church's documents on this issue will provide help and guidance to pastors, ethicists, doctors, nurses and families involved in the care of those diagnosed as being in a persistent 'vegetative state.'"

The responses from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) (http://www.usccb.org/comm/hydrationletter.doc), a CDF commentary (http://www.usccb.org/comm/hydrationcommentary.doc), approved by Cardinal William Le
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SOURCE United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
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