Pro-Life Advocates, Terri Schiavo Family Welcome New Catholic Guidelines

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 17, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Life Advocates, Terri Schiavo Family Welcome New Catholic Guidelines Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 17,

Washington, DC ( — Pro-life groups in the United States and the family of Terri Schiavo enthusiastically received a new Vatican document saying physicians have an obligation to provide comatose patients with food and water. The document provides guidelines for making sure patients like Terri receive appropriate treatment.

In comments to, Terri’s father Bob Schindler said he appreciated the Catholic Church backing the obligation to feed and hydrate those persons deemed to be in a "vegetative" or even comatose state.

He said the Schindler family hopes those who administer Catholic health care and Catholic clergy and laity "who persistently ignored the basic right to life of our daughter and sister Terri … will begin to open their eyes and hearts to the immutable and incontrovertible truth reaffirmed by the Holy See."

"We find it sad that many of those who claim to speak on behalf of the betterment of society and concern for the poor were against Terri and our efforts to care for her," he explained.

Fr. Frank Pavone, the director of Priests for Life who prayed with Terri and her family shortly before her death, said the statement appeared to perfectly address Terri’s situation and those of patients like her.

"Her autopsy said that she died of dehydration. She did not die from natural causes or from any illness. She was killed," Pavone told

"Let’s not confuse Terri’s case with the legitimate withdrawal of medical treatment. While there is such a thing as a worthless treatment, there is never such a thing as a worthless life," he added.

Even if a person is severely injured, compromised or otherwise limited in his or her abilities, they still retain their "fundamental human dignity and must, therefore, receive ordinary and proportionate care" according to the Vatican.

This includes providing them both food and water, even if by artificial means.

Meanwhile, the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which initially requested the new document from the Vatican, said it reaffirms the church position that patients in a “vegetative state” are living human beings with inherent dignity and deserve the same basic care as other patients.

Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for Doctrine, responded to the new document in comments to

“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,’" he said.