Pope Ends Debate over Nutrition and Hydration for Patients in Vegetative State

ROME, March 20, 2004 ( - In a speech today to the international congress on “Life- sustaining treatments and the vegetative state”, Pope John Paul II has made the first definitive statement on nutrition and hydration, ending years of debate among theologians.  The Pope clarified that removal of nutrition and hydration from patients in a vegetative state who are not otherwise dying is gravely immoral.  Alex Schadenberg, of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition is in Rome at the conference and told, that the issue has been troubling for Catholic Church leaders for many years with different bishops and theologians coming to different conclusions on the matter.  “The Bishops of Texas said a couple of years ago that nutrition and hydration in the case of a patient in a vegetative state was optional, however the Bishops of Pennsylvania said that nutrition and hydration were mandatory, just as the Pope has affirmed today.”

In his address the Pope taught “In particular, I want to emphasize that the administration of water and food . . . always represents a natural means of preservation of life, not a medical treatment.”  He continued, “Its employment is therefore is to be considered, in principle, proportionate and ordinary, and as such morally obligatory.”  Thus John Paul II confirmed that by commission or omission, euthanasia is “a serious violation of the Law of God” and is the “morally unacceptable deliberate killing of a human person.”  Schadenberg told LifeSite that the Pope directly contradicted Catholic theologians such as the famed Kevin O’Rourke who suggest that when a person is no longer able to exercise higher functioning he ceases to be a person.  The Pope said, “I feel the duty to reaffirm with vigor that the intrinsic value and the personal dignity of every human being does not change.”  He said, “A man, even if seriously sick or unable to exercise his higher functions, is and will be always a man, he will never become a ‘vegetable’ or an ‘animal’.”  The Pope said cost cannot be a factor as human life is of supreme value.  Moreover considerations of “quality of life” and pain management cannot factor into the equation when dealing with denying nutrition and hydration since such considerations stem from a principle of eugenics.  See the Pope’s full address (in Italian) at:

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