HUELVA, SPAIN, September 2, 2011 ( – The bishop of Huelva, Spain says that withdrawing food and fluids from patients “constitutes an act of euthanasia.” Bishop Jose Vilapana’s comments, issued last week in a statement, were made in response to a decision by family members of 90-year-old Ramona Estevez to remove her feeding tube.

“Any action aimed at interrupting food and hydration constitutes an act of euthanasia, in which death is produced not through illness but through the bringing about of hunger and thirst,” Bishop Vilaplana said, adding that the dignity of human life “must not be linked to the state of consciousness or unconsciousness of someone who is sick.”

The “only duty society has with regards to the sick is help them to live, as life is not something we use and throw away,” he said.


On July 26, Estevez suffered a stroke that left her in a coma, at which point doctors at the Blanca Paloma hospital inserted a feeding tube to keep her fed.

On August 23, however, health department officials in the province of Andalusia, where Huelva is located, granted the request of the patient’s son, Jose Ramon Paez, to stop providing food. Perez complained that doctors “have turned her into a machine.”

While a national bill to permit the withdrawal of a feeding tube has been delayed by November elections, Andalusia had instituted Spain’s first so-called “death with dignity law” in March 2010.

A Spanish right to life organization’s request to have Estevez’s feeding tube reinserted has been denied. The organization has said, however, that it will file a lawsuit against the head of Andalusia’s health department, Maria Jesus Montero, for violating the right to conscientious objection and for withdrawing care from Estevez.

In his statement Bishop Vilapana said that it “is not the duty of a doctor to suspend the food and hydration of a person who is in a vegetative state, which is a chronic illness that does not cause death.”

“With great humility, I pray sincerely to the Lord for the family members and people around [Estevez], that they may discover in her the mysterious strength of life, which can be perceived even in the body of someone who is elderly, in a coma and weak, and that they might rethink their decisions,” he said.

“Deliberately seeking out death or inducing it, as (Pope) Benedict XVI has said so many times, is not the answer to the drama of suffering.”


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