Do you have a living will?
If you do, you will likely need to revoke it and shred it.
That is, if you value your life.
WHAT IS A LIVING WILL?
A living will is a document describing a person’s desired medical treatment in the event they cannot express their wishes.
What happens if you are a car accident and end up in a coma?
How long should you be kept on life support if you experience organ failure?
Who gets to make the medical treatment decisions on your behalf, if you suffer a stroke and cannot speak or shows signs of consciousness?
To answer to questions such as these, you can see the value in having your desires in writing beforehand. That is where a living will was introduced, to try to make these intentions known.
THE PROBLEM WITH LIVING WILLS
Do you have a living will? Do you know what it says about “extraordinary care?”
If not, re-read that section of your living will. If your document says something to the effect that “no extraordinary care shall be taken” to extend your life, shred your document and get something else.
The medical community and Catholic moral teaching have differing definitions of “extraordinary care.”
When doctors, nurses and other medical professions think of “extraordinary means” of keeping your life preserved, they include food and water.
Thus, if you need a feeding tube in order to be kept alive, then by their definition, they are exerting “extraordinary care.” After all, they had to break open your skin or shove something down your throat to provide you nutrients.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this definition of “extraordinary care.” It is what the medical community has adopted, so be it.
But nonetheless, we all must be wary of signing anything that states they have the right to withhold food and water from us.
THE CATHOLIC MORAL TEACHING
The Catholic moral teaching says we all have a right to food and water. These nutrients are necessary for existence, per our human nature.
Thus, even if fluids need to be given intravenously or nutrients through a feeding tube, each person has a right to such care. Such means to preserve one’s life are not considered “extraordinary” but are instead ordinary means of caring for someone.
If your document says something to the effect that “no extraordinary care shall be taken” to extend your life, shred your document and get something else.
So, do you have a living will that contains a broad statement that medical professionals can withhold “extraordinary means” from you?
If so, then you have given them the right to withhold food and water from you. Thus, you have, in essence, given them the ability to starve you to death.
Sounds drastic and dramatic, I realize. But that’s how it goes. We are talking about life and death here.
We must mention one exception to this. And this one can be a bit difficult for some people to understand. Thus, I will do my best to explain it.
Suppose someone has contracted an illness that—by its nature—makes it difficult or impossible to swallow or digest food or water. What sickness they have that causes this may prevent food or water from being given. As, giving such nutrients may harm the person.
This person could choke on the food, bleed, or do something that has such a negative effect that the person is worse off.
In this event, since the illness progresses in such a manner, food and water could be morally withheld.
That said, it would be best to consult a priest, deacon, or some clergyman or ethical expert before agreeing to withhold nutrients from a loved one.
So, do you have a living will? If so, were you aware of the proximate danger likely contained in the document?
Please share your thoughts below!