Catholic Pro-Life Official: Eluana Englaro Death Makes Right to Food Critical

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 17, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Pro-Life Official: Eluana Englaro Death Makes Right to Food Critical

by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 17
, 2009

The Vatican ( — Following the euthanasia death of Eluana Englaro, a leading pro-life Vatican officials says pro-life advocates and the Catholic Church must do more to defend the right of patients to receive food and water. Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life says nutrition is not medical treatment.

"Food and water are not medical treatment," Fisichella stated, saying that it is a right that should never be revoked from another person.

"Thousands of doctors and scientists share our belief that food and water are not medical treatment but an essential requirement for life which can never be eliminated," Fisichella stated.

According to an AKI report, Fisichella added: "We need to distinguish between medical intervention and when a feeding tube is inserted into someone’s stomach and food and water, which we (the Catholic Church) do not believe are medical treatments."

The Italian government says it will now introduce legislation to promote living wills, in the wake of Englaro’s death, to help future patients like her have their medical care instructions set forth prior to being in a position to be unable to make treatment decisions.

But the Catholic Church is seeking legislation that would go further by making it illegal for the removal of a feeding tube or food and water from patients who are unable to make their own treatment decisions.

Englaro died after a medical clinic partially starved and dehydrated her to death over a four day period.

The disabled woman had been in a minimally conscious state since 1992, when she was involved in an automobile accident. Englaro’s father Beppino had won a court order to kill his daughter after fighting for a decade to do so.

Her neurologist, Carlo Alberto Defanti, had said he expected Englaro to live as long as two weeks — the same amount of time as the 13 days Terri Schiavo lived after her former husband subjected her to a painful starvation and dehydration death in March 2005.

Terri Schiavo’s father had written to Beppino asking him to reconsider his decision to kill his daughter.

"God gave you and I the responsibility to instill morals in our children and to keep them out of harm’s way. To starve and dehydrate your daughter is far from God’s wishes." he said.

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