Polish archbishop asks British cardinal to save comatose Polish man from starvation in UK hospital

Archbishop Stanislaw Gądecki has explained that there is strong public feeling in the patient’s homeland against the British court which permitted the hospital responsible for his care to remove the patient's clinically assisted nutrition and hydration
Tue Jan 19, 2021 - 12:13 pm EST
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Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish bishops' conference.

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POZNAN, Poland, January 19, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — The head of the Bishops Conference of Poland has written to Cardinal Vincent Nichols in the hope that his English counterpart will do something to save a Polish Catholic currently dying of passive euthanasia in an English hospital. 

Archbishop Stanislaw Gądecki has explained that there is strong public feeling in the patient’s homeland against the British court which permitted the hospital responsible for his care to remove his clinically assisted nutrition and hydration.

“He was, de facto, sentenced to death of starvation,” Gądecki wrote.

The patient, who is known in the English-speaking world as “RS” because of a court order protecting his identity, is a Polish Catholic who suffered a heart attack in his home in England on November 6 and sustained serious brain damage. Although he can breathe for himself, he relies on clinically assisted nutrition and hydration (CANH) for survival. His hospital doctors believe that he is in a vegetative state and that he has only a small chance of becoming even minimally conscious. At the same time, they expected him to live another five or more years with the help of CANH. Believing this was not in his “best interests” the doctors received permission from the British Court of Protection to discontinue CAHN. 

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In Britain, CANH is considered “medical treatment” and therefore its withdrawal is not legally considered euthanasia. The practise is considered barbaric and cruel in RS’s native Poland, and the case has caught the attention of the Polish press and public. Video footage of RS in his hospital bed has been widely circulated in Poland, much to the disgust of the judge who made the order forbidding the identification of RS. Two neurologists consulted by RS’s birth family have given their opinion that RS is progressing to a minimally conscious state, but their evidence has been rejected by both the Court of Protection and the Court of Appeal.  

In his letter, which Polish online newspaper Polonia Christiana reproduced in full, the Polish archbishop reminded the English cardinal of the basic details of the case: that the patient’s wife and children, who live in England, agree with the decision to end his life, but that his mother and sister who live in Poland, and his sister and niece, who live in England, are opposed to it. Gądecki noted also that the European Court of Human Rights have refused to hear the latter’s case on more than one occasion, and so the hospital is continuing to allow RS to die.

RS’s birth family testified that RS was a devout Catholic who was opposed to both abortion and euthanasia, who believed that sick people deserved compassionate care and had a right to their lives. One of RS’s sisters told LifeSiteNews that he was furious with British court decisions to end the life of toddler Alfie Evans. However, RS’s wife testified that her husband would not want to be “a burden” or to be remembered by his children as “disabled.”

Although RS’s birth family, with the support of the Polish Government, have attempted to appeal the decision to end RS’s life and, as Gądecki recalled in his letter, the Polish Government has asked permission to take RS to Poland for care, the British courts have refused. Mr Justice Cohen has repeated his judgment that it is in RS’s “best interests” not to receive life-sustaining care.

RS’s sister also told LifeSiteNews that her brother had met St. John Paul II and treasured a photograph he had of the two of them together. In his letter to Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop Gądecki reminded the prelate of the Polish pope’s warnings against the “culture of death.”

St. John Paul II, in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, wrote: 

it is possible to speak in a certain sense of a war of the powerful against the weak: a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected in one way or another. A person who, because of illness, handicap or, more simply, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life-style of those who are more favoured tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated. In this way a kind of "conspiracy against life" is unleashed. This conspiracy involves not only individuals in their personal, family or group relationships, but goes far beyond, to the point of damaging and distorting, at the international level, relations between peoples and States. 

The Polish archbishop concluded his letter by asking Cardinal Nichols’ help in “this difficult situation” and to make an attempt at saving the life of “our compatriot.” The Polish word Archbishop Gądecki used to describe RS, “rodak,” is derived from the same root from which the Polish word for family, “rodzina”, is derived. It denotes strong and warm ties through nationality. 

Hitherto, the most prominent Catholic to speak up against the dehydration and starvation death of RS was the Anscombe Bioethics Centre’s Dr. David Jones, who published a position paper on the topic on January 12, 2021. Jones underscored that RS had previously expressed opposition to euthanasia. He was particularly troubled by the implications of hydration and nutrition being removed from vulnerable people on the grounds that they would not want to be “a burden.”

LifeSiteNews has reached out to the Archdiocese of Westminster for comment and is awaiting a response. 

  euthanasia, nutrition and hydration, rs case, stanisław gądecki, vincent nichols

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