Thursday, July 28, 2005

Mulligan on PVS and ANH

In the July issue of Ethics and Medics, Msgr. James Mulligan elaborates on Pope John Paul II’s allocution on “Life-Sustaining Treatments and the Vegetative State” which directly touched on the case of Terri Schiavo.

His assertion is that John Paul did not change the Church’s teaching on administering food and drink to patients in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). Administering water and food even artificially is obligatory, “insofar as and until it is seen to have attained its proper finality,” writes John Paul. Therefore, Mulligan says that “When food and drink no longer serve their proper purpose, they too can be omitted without moral failure. The purpose is to supply comfort and sustain life.” Then he continues, “For some patients who are dying, the supplying of food and drink serves neither purpose and can be stopped.”

So should it have been stopped: the administration of artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH) for Schiavo? Well, according to Mulligan, no, as her condition wasn’t terminal: she wasn’t dying. The ANH was still serving its purpose. In fact, it was the decision to remove ANH that caused her condition to become terminal, Mulligan concludes.

Read Mulligan’s article here.

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