New Jersey Catholic Hospital Withdraws Food, Water From Conscious Patient

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 5, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New Jersey Catholic Hospital Withdraws Food, Water From Conscious Patient

by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 5
, 2009

Paterson, NJ ( — A Catholic hospital in New Jersey is the subject of criticism from pro-life advocates for reportedly withdrawing food and water from a conscious patient. St. Joseph’s Wayne Hospital has reportedly withdrawn nutrition and hydration from a 50-year-old Catholic woman, who has been starving to death since Sunday.

Richard Collier, a leading pro-life attorney in the state, notified of the situation and indicated he sent a desperate email to pro-life groups across the country on her behalf.

Collier said a friend of the starving woman contacted him and other pro-life advocates about the situation.

"When I learned of the situation on Tuesday night, I immediately contacted the Diocese of Paterson," where Bishop Arthur Serratelli is the bishop, Collier said.

He told that he is worried Catholic officials are not acting quickly enough to restore food and water to the woman, named Barbara.

"Because the Diocese does not appear to be responding to me, our only recourse is to publicize this situation and bring pressure on the Diocese to do the right thing."

Kenneth Mullaney, the general counsel of the Diocese, exchanged emails with Collier and said he did not know enough about the situation to determine whether Catholic teaching was violated at St. Joseph’s.

"It is absolutely clear under the teaching of the Church that patients should not be deprived of nutrition and hydration," Collier said.

He cited a recent statement put out by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which was approved by Pope Benedict, that expresses that sentiment.

Collier worries that, by the time Diocesan officials act that Barbara will either be dead or have suffered permanent physical or psychological damage as a result of the removal of food and water.

UPDATE: As of late Thursday afternoon, Mullaney release the following statement:

"The Diocese of Paterson immediately responded to inquiries concerning the medical treatment of a patient at Hospice of New Jersey which leases space from St. Joseph’s Hospital in Wayne. The Diocese wanted to be certain that Catholic ethical principles were being followed."

"The Diocese was given information that the feeding tube was never removed and that the feedings had been placed on hold due to abdominal pain. At the present time, the Diocese has been informed that the feedings have resumed due to a change in the patient’s condition. The Diocese has been given permission by the family to release this information."

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