Peter Baklinski


Bioethicist argues PVS diagnosed patients should not be kept alive

Peter Baklinski
Peter Baklinski

April 11, 2012 ( - If an American bioethicist gets her way, all patients evaluated as being in a “permanent vegetative state” (PVS) would by default have artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH) withdrawn unless they have made a prior wish to be kept alive.

In the March 2012 issue of Bioethics, Dr. Catherine Constable argues that “in the absence of clear evidence that the patient would opt for this existence over death, keeping him alive by any means of assistance is ethically more problematic than allowing him to die.”

Constable’s article however, does not appear to adequately confront recent research indicating that many patients have been misdiagnosed as PVS and have in fact had functioning, fully conscious brains. They have been unable to communicate their situation to caregivers and to those who in many cases made misguided decisions to end their lives. The highly respected Discover Magazine published a dramatic report on such research last year.

The term PVS itself is also being increasingly being challenged as inappropriate for human beings who it is argued can never be considered to be “vegetative”.

In her article titled Withdrawal of Artificial Nutrition and Hydration for Patients in a Permanent Vegetative State: Changing Tack, Constable suggests that the current medical presumption that favors providing nutrition and hydration to PVS patients is a “violation of autonomy” and that it “goes against the best interests of the patient”.

Constable, who teaches at New York University School of Medicine but who studied bioethics at the Ethox Centre at Oxford University, justifies her position using the philosophical premise of Peter Singer that “[whether or not] a being is human, and alive, does not in itself tell us whether it is wrong to take that being’s life.” She drew heavily on Singer’s method for valuing persons in terms of consciousness that allows him to argue that “the most significant ethically relevant characteristic of human beings whose brains have ceased to function is not that they are members of our species, but that they have no prospect of regaining consciousness.”

“Without consciousness, continued life cannot benefit them [PVS patients],” Singer argued.

Constable runs with Singer’s line of reasoning, concluding that “a decision to preserve the life of a patient in a state of permanent unconsciousness based on respect for life itself is morally no more sound than a decision to take that life.”

For Constable, an individual’s autonomy is the highest human good, overriding any other good, including what she calls the “sanctity of life”. Since a PVS patient presumably no longer has consciousness and therefore lacks autonomy, her argument runs, then there is no moral reason that such a patient should be kept alive.

“In view of this conclusion, other considerations, such as the cost to the healthcare system (public, or any other kind) would seem poised to be deciding factors,” she argues.

Constable goes as far as making the case that those who provide a PVS patient who may not have wanted to be kept alive with ANH “have arguably committed a worse violation of autonomy by treating the patient than if we had not treated him against his wishes.”

Bringing in surveys that indicate that a majority of people would not want to continue living in a permanent vegetative state, Constable argues that in continuing to provide ANH to PVS patients “we are employing a treatment that most do not consider beneficial without consent.” For Constable, ANH is simply a “form of treatment” that is concomitant with all the “ethical ramifications” that would normally accompany any other kind of treatment.

Constable even argues against keeping PVS patients alive through ANH under the pretext of a chance of recovery for the reason that the new life gained would be “far less likely to resemble [the life that was] lost” and would likely resemble “some state of middle consciousness”. She suggests that the life of a recovered PVS patient would be “quite possibly, worse than non-existence”.

Renowned bioethics critic Wesley J. Smith called Constable’s position paper a “radical proposal” that would set the stage for what he called a “‘default for death’ policy [that] would establish the foundation for a veritable duty to die”.

Smith warned that Constable’s arguments for killing PVS patients are not limited to the PVS.

“Some bioethicists already claim that those with minimal consciousness have an interest in being made to die. And don’t forget Futile Care Theory and health care rationing bearing down on us.”

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) stated in 2007 that the withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration from PVS patients is immoral. Their statements were approved by Pope Benedict XVI.

“The administration of food and water even by artificial means is, in principle, an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving life. It is therefore obligatory to the extent to which, and for as long as, it is shown to accomplish its proper finality, which is the hydration and nourishment of the patient. In this way suffering and death by starvation and dehydration are prevented.”

The CDF clarified that even if a competent physician judges with moral certainty that a PVS patient will never recover consciousness, nonetheless, a PVS patient is “a person with fundamental human dignity and must, therefore, receive ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food even by artificial means.”

The late John Paul II had also taught that “the administration of water and food [to a sick person], even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act.”

“We had better push back on this agenda”, warned Smith on his blog.

“The lives of tens of thousands of people may be at stake.”

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Today’s chuckle: Rubio, Fiorina and Carson pardon a Thanksgiving turkey

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By Steve Jalsevac

A little bit of humour now and then is a good thing.

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American readers.

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Building of the European Court of Human Rights.
Lianne Laurence


BREAKING: Europe’s top human rights court slaps down German ban on pro-life leafletting

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

STRASBOURG, France, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that a German regional court violated a pro-life activist’s freedom of expression when it barred him from leafleting in front of an abortion center.

It further ruled the German court’s order that Klaus Gunter Annen not list the names of two abortion doctors on his website likewise violated the 64-year-old pro-life advocate’s right to freedom of expression.

The court’s November 26 decision is “a real moral victory,” says Gregor Puppinck, director of the Strasbourg-based European Center for Law and Justice, which intervened in Annen’s case. “It really upholds the freedom of speech for pro-life activists in Europe.”

Annen, a father of two from Weinam, a mid-sized city in the Rhine-Neckar triangle, has appealed to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights at least two times before, Puppinck told LifeSiteNews.

“This is the first time he made it,” he said, noting that this time around, Annen had support from the ECLJ and Alliance Defense Fund and the German Pro-life Federation (BVL). “I think he got more support, better arguments and so I think this helped.”

The court also ordered the German government to pay Annen costs of 13,696.87 EUR, or 14,530 USD.

Annen started distributing pamphlets outside a German abortion center ten years ago, ECLJ stated in a press release.

His leaflets contained the names and addresses of the two abortionists at the center, declared they were doing “unlawful abortions,” and stated in smaller print that, “the abortions were allowed by the German legislators and were not subject to criminal liability.”

Annen’s leaflets also stated that, “The murder of human beings in Auschwitz was unlawful, but the morally degraded NS State allowed the murder of innocent people and did not make it subject to criminal liability.” They referred to Annen’s website,, which listed a number of abortionists, including the two at the site he was leafleting.

In 2007, a German regional court barred Annen from pamphleteering in the vicinity of the abortion center, and ordered him to drop the name of the two abortion doctors from his website.

But the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that the German courts had "failed to strike a fair balance between [Annen’s] right to freedom of expression and the doctor’s personality rights.”

The Court stated that, “there can be no doubt as to the acute sensitivity of the moral and ethical issues raised by the question of abortion or as to the importance of the public interest at stake.”

That means, stated ECLJ, that “freedom of expression in regard to abortion shall enjoy a full protection.”

ECLJ stated that the court noted Annen’s leaflets “made clear that the abortions performed in the clinic were not subject to criminal liability. Therefore, the statement that ‘unlawful abortions’ were being performed in the clinic was correct from a legal point of view.”

As for the Holocaust reference, the court stated that, “the applicant did not – at least not explicitly – equate abortion with the Holocaust.”  Rather, the reference was “a way of creating awareness of the more general fact that law might diverge from morality.”

The November 26 decision “is a quite good level of protection of freedom of speech for pro-life people,” observed Puppinck.

First, the European Court of Human Rights has permitted leafleting “in the direct proximate vicinity of the clinic, so there is no issue of zoning,” he told LifeSiteNews. “And second, the leaflets were mentioning the names of the doctors, and moreover, were mentioning the issue of the Holocaust, which made them quite strong leaflets.”

“And the court protected that.”

Annen has persevered in his pro-life awareness campaign through the years despite the restraints on his freedom.

“He did continue, and he did adapt,” Puppinck told LifeSiteNews. “He kept his freedom of speech as much as he could, but he continued to be sanctioned by the German authorities, and each time he went to the court of human rights. And this time, he won.”

ECLJ’s statement notes that “any party” has three months to appeal the November 26 decision.

However, as it stands, the European Court of Human Rights’s ruling affects “all the national courts,” noted Puppinck, and these will now “have to protect freedom of speech, recognize the freedom of speech for pro-lifers.”

“In the past, the courts have not always been very supportive of the freedom of speech of pro-life,” he said, so the ruling is “significant.”

As for Annen’s pro-life ministry, Pubbinck added: “He can continue to go and do, and I’m sure that he does, because he always did.”  

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A vibrant church in Africa. Pierre-Yves Babelon /
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‘Soft racism’: German Bishops’ website attributes African Catholics’ strong faith to simplemindedness

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By Pete Baklinski

GERMANY, November 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) --  The only reason the Catholic Church is growing in Africa is because the people have a “rather low level” of education and accept “simple answers to difficult questions” involving marriage and sexuality, posited an article on the official website of the German Bishops' Conference posted yesterday. The article targeted particularly Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea, the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and ardent defender of Catholic tradition.

First Things blogger Leroy Huizenga, who translated a portion of the article, criticized the article's view as “soft racism.”

In his article, titled “The Romantic, Poor Church,” editor Björn Odendahl writes: 

So also in Africa. Of course the Church is growing there. It grows because the people are socially dependent and often have nothing else but their faith. It grows because the educational situation there is on average at a rather low level and the people accept simple answers to difficult questions (of faith) [sic]. Answers like those that Cardinal Sarah of Guinea provides. And even the growing number of priests is a result not only of missionary power but also a result of the fact that the priesthood is one of the few possibilities for social security on the dark continent.

Huizenga said that such an article has no place on a bishops’ conference website. 

“We all know that the German Bishops' Conference is one of the most progressive in the world. But it nevertheless beggars belief that such a statement would appear on the Conference's official website, with its lazy slander of African Christians and priests as poor and uneducated (Odendahl might as well have added ‘easy to command’) and its gratuitous swipe at Cardinal Sarah,” he wrote. 

“Natürlich progressives could never be guilty of such a sin and crime, but these words sure do suggest soft racism, the racism of elite white Western paternalism,” he added. 

African prelates have gained a solid reputation for being strong defenders of Catholic sexual morality because of their unwavering orthodox input into the recently concluded Synod on the Family in Rome. 

At one point during the Synod, Cardinal Robert Sarah urged Catholic leaders to recognize as the greatest modern enemies of the family what he called the twin “demonic” “apocalyptic beasts” of “the idolatry of Western freedom” and “Islamic fundamentalism.”

STORY: Cardinal Danneels warns African bishops to avoid ‘triumphalism’

“What Nazi-Fascism and Communism were in the 20th century, Western homosexual and abortion ideologies and Islamic fanaticism are today,” he said during his speech at the Synod last month. 

But African prelates’ adherence to orthodoxy has earned them enemies, especially from the camp of Western prelates bent on forming the Catholic Church in their own image and likeness, not according to Scripture, tradition, and the teaching magisterium of the Church. 

During last year’s Synod, German Cardinal Walter Kasper went as far as stating that the voice of African Catholics in the area of Church teaching on homosexuality should simply be dismissed.

African cardinals “should not tell us too much what we have to do,” he said in an October 2014 interview with ZENIT, adding that African countries are "very different, especially about gays.” 

Earlier this month Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, instead of praising Africa for its vibrant and flourishing Catholicism, said that African prelates will one day have to look to Europe to get what he called “useful tips” on how to deal with “secularization” and “individualism.” 

The statement was criticized by one pro-family advocate as “patronizing of the worst kind” in light of the facts that numerous European churches are practically empty, vocations to the priesthood and religious life are stagnant, and the Catholic faith in Europe, especially in Belgium, is overall in decline.

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