Pro-Life Nurse Says Living Wills Present Euthanasia Problems for Pro-Lifers

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 14, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Nurse Says Living Wills Present Euthanasia Problems for Pro-Lifers Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 14, 2005

Aliquippa, PA ( — A pro-life nurse representing a leading organization of medical professionals that opposes abortion says pro-life advocates should be on guard for problems involved with living wills. Since the euthanasia death of Terri Schiavo in March, more attention has been focused on the documents.

Deborah Sturm, a registered nurse and member of National Association of Pro-Life Nurses, discussed living wills and advanced directives at the recent meeting of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

"The standard living-will documents that are advocated by those who support euthanasia have a general presumption for death," Sturm told Zenit news service. "The language is often ambiguous and can be interpreted by a health-care provider in a variety of ways that a patient did not intend."

"Some living wills allow for the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration — which, of course, includes food and water — if a patient is comatose or vegetative," she told Zenit. "It is against Catholic teaching to refuse a patient nutrition and hydration just because they have these diagnoses."

"In other words, a living will can kill a person," she explained.

Strum says pro-life advocates should look at living will alternatives and pointed to organization that have good alternatives. National Right to Life, the International Anti-Euthanasia Task Force and other groups have legal documents that presume the patient wants to live and prefers lifesaving medical treatment.

"All of these documents involve designation of a health-care proxy who speaks for the patient when they cannot speak for themselves," Sturm told Zenit.

If someone already has a living will, the pro-life nurse encouraged them to replace it with one of these documents.

"If they have already signed a living will," she said, "they should ensure that it is properly revoked — in writing."