Pope Calls Removing Feeding Tube "Immoral" and "Euthanasia by Omission"

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 21, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pope Calls Removing Feeding Tube "Immoral" and "Euthanasia by Omission"

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 21, 2004

Rome, Italy (LifeNews.com) — Expanding on the Catholic Church’s pro-life policies on assisted suicide and euthanasia, the Pope over the weekend said that removing the feeding tube of a disabled patient is immoral and amounts to "euthanasia by omission."

Pope John Paul II also said that the lexicon used to describe such patients — as being in a "vegetative state" was degrading and inhuman.

That’s the kind of language that has been condemned by supporters of Terri Schiavo and doctors who say she is not in a state of PVS, but is disabled and able to breathe on her own without artificial respiration.

"A man, even if seriously sick or prevented in the exercise of its higher functions, is and will be always a man … [he] will never become a ‘vegetable’ or an ‘animal,’" the Pope said. "The intrinsic value and personal dignity of every human being does not change depending on their circumstances."

Providing food and water to such patients should be a natural thing to do and "morally obligatory," but not considered extraordinary measures, the Pope added. "In particular, I want to emphasize that the administration of water and food . . . always represents a natural means of preservation of life, not a medical treatment."

In his address, the Pope said disabled patients ought to receive appropriate rehabilitation to help them recover from their disabled state — something Terri’s parents Bob and Mary Schindler have been prevented from offering to their daughter.

Families like the Schindlers deserve our support, Pope John Paul said. "They can’t be left with the heavy emotional and economic burden," the Pope explained.

The Pope made the comments to those attending a conference on ethical issues surrounding disabled patients. The conference was organized by the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and the Pontifical Academy for Life, a Vatican advisory panel.

The pope told those participating that removing the feeding tube of a disabled person is a "serious violation of the Law of God."

No matter what the cost, the Pope said, human life ought to be protected.

Related web sites:
The Pope’s euthanasia address (in Italian) – https://www.vatican.va/news_services/bulletin/news/14536.php?index=14536&lang=en