Feb 28, 2013

"I Thirst!"--A Case Against Euthanasia

This is my great-grandmother, Evelyn. She has since gone to Jesus, but look how beautiful she was for my cousin’s wedding, ten years ago.  It was quite an event: at the reception, she was choking on some roast beef, and I happened to be there to perform the Heimlich maneuver and save her life. Anyone else could have done it, but God put me there at that particular place and time.

People called me a hero, but that wasn't heroic virtue. Heroic virtue is what was called for a year later, when Evelyn was in hospice. Perhaps you have a parent or grandparent who needs more and more help. You may soon be called upon by God to practice heroic virtue. As any good Boy Scout would tell you, "Be prepared."

Do not forget that a moderate amount of nutrition and hydration will keep a person comfortable, and it should be considered ordinary, "everyday" care. The nursing staff will refer to this as "activities of daily living," or "ADLs." To deprive someone of nutrition and hydration when they are nearing the end of their life could actually become the cause of their death, and if it is done deliberately, it would be  "euthanasia." (CCC 2277)

We should be quick to forgive, and slow to judge mistakes in this area, even if this means forgiving ourselves for past mistakes when our conscience becomes better informed. But let us be honest and open to dialogue, because the Truth will set us freeIf the Truth convicts us, let us remember that Jesus Christ is Himself the Truth, and He will show us mercy when we seek Him and acknowledge that we have done wrong.

I am ashamed to say that Evelyn was deprived of nutrition and hydration for the last 6 days of her life. [Up to that point, there were many things going wrong in her body. Drinking was difficult for her, because she would easily inhale it into her lungs. This fluid build-up in her lungs, made worse by her congestive heart failure, resulted in a few bouts of pneumonia. Eventually, she became septic, meaning that the infection had spread to her bloodstream. The septic shock caused vital organs to began to "shut down:" the digestive system was not working properly, the liver was removing less toxin from the bloodstream, and the kidneys were reduced in functioning, although there was still urine output until the last day. However, despite the septic shock and the danger of dehydration, no I-V was given. Perhaps the technology for regulating hydration just wasn't as readily available then as it is today.]  I knew that withholding nutrition and hydration was wrong, but I did not know how to give it to her at the time, and neither, it seems, did anyone else in my family. However, I still wish that I would have pressed the doctor further to address the question of just how much hydration (even if it were just a few drops) that her body would have been able to assimilate, because a week without water is long enough to kill a person.

As we fast during Lent, we are painfully reminded that being dehydrated and malnourished is not a comfortable feeling. As one continues in such a state, the impulses of hunger and thirst may disappear, but they were only the first indications that the body is in need of water and energy. These needs will naturally arise as time progresses, but of course we must honestly address the question, “Is the body capable of assimilating that nutrition/hydration?”

Hydration can be easily given by an I-V, and the flow rate can be monitored very precisely, so that it does not cause fluid build-up in a way that could be harmful or uncomfortable. Also, methods of dialysis can easily remove excess hydration from the bloodstream. We are morally obligated to provide hydration, in whatever small amounts that can be safely assimilated by the body. This issue has caused a lot of people a lot of grief, including myself. But think of the rich man Jesus tells us about who had died, and as he was suffering from the heat of the flames, asked for Lazarus to be sent to dip just the tip of his finger in water, and bring him relief.

Nutrition, also, can technically be delivered directly into the bloodstream. But the last I heard, the current technology for regulating the blood-sugar levels of such a situation is not precise enough for this to be considered safe in all circumstances. If it is true that this is a risky procedure, you are not morally obligated to do it. However, as long as the intestines are functioning well, a feeding tube would be an easy way to provide nutrition, and would be morally obligatory if the person cannot eat for a long period of time.

Also, beware of the DNR and the Living Will, because they can be used to deny care to a person in the case of an emergency. It is best not to sign them at all, or to find some other advance directive forms that are morally acceptable. It is best to set something down in writing to designate friends and family who have good moral judgment, who could be there to help take care of you in an emergency.

Please pray for the people making these decisions:  It is not easyThat's why the struggle to care for our grandparents with an informed conscience should be called "heroic."

When God places you in the position to be present to human suffering, it is best to focus on the positive—consider that it is Jesus Himself who is crying out in thirst, mystically present in the person who suffers. For example, Mother Teresa became a saint because she recognized Christ's voice in that cry of thirst, and she followed after Him:

Feb 17, 2013

"I Will Not Leave You Orphans."--Why God's Plan Will Triumph Over the HHS Mandate

"Christian love leads to denunciation, proposals
 and a commitment to cultural and social projects; 
it prompts positive activity that inspires all who sincerely 
have the good of man at heart to make their contribution..."
--CSDC 6

Cardinal Dolan and Archbishop Lori officially sounded the alarm--faithful Catholics in the United States are being asked to drop their health insurance,  "if they want to preserve their religious and moral integrity " and be true to their "morally well-informed consciences." No longer can we just "keep the status quo." We must discern the real meaning of "keep the status quo," which would present us with a fundamental choice: "keep paying for abortions through your monthly insurance premiums," or "keep [yourself rooted in Jesus Christ, by keeping] the faith, and everything that Holy Church has taught you."

STOP, take a deep breath, close your eyes, and say a prayer...

Why should any member of the Body of Christ have to worry?--Our Father in heaven knows our every need, and by His Loving Providence, He has given us a couple of options for legitimate health coverage, through the prudent additions to Canon Law made by Pope Benedict XVI, in his motu propio, "On the Service of Charity."

But before we explain the solutions, we must understand the scope of the problem:  It has been made clear by every bishop in charge of dioceses in the United States that "We cannot, will not comply" with the HHS mandate. And the sense of the faithful has indicated that, for the faithful themselves, to comply with the mandate would be, in a very real sense, "apostasy from the truth"--It seems that the act of funding an abortion, with at least $1 automatically from each monthly premium, is "by its very nature" [with a necessary connection between the funds and the act] a kind of proximate material cooperation in abortion, and therefore, "formal" cooperation in a sin of grave matter (see Evangelium Vitae, 74).  In this case, it also seems to be an excommunicable offense.  [Let us repent!]  Furthermore, if we fail to withhold the funds levied by this unjust law, it would be a very serious act of omission, by failing to fulfill the grave duty of Conscientious Objection. [Let us take action!]

Basically, Obamacare presents the faithful with a kind of moral dillema:  On the one hand, we all have the moral obligation to provide healthcare for those who are in great need, especially those closest to us, but on the other hand, we cannot do evil so that a good effect may come from it. We cannot buy "a product that violates our conscience"--we cannot buy Obamacare-compliant health insurance, just as we cannot buy a [self-automated robot] pre-programmed to attack babies and the elderly, or a vending machine that will dispense condoms, abortion pills, and vouchers for surgical sterilization, to which one's own children would have easy and free access, without any further parental consent or even notification.


(1)--Join one of the three existing Health-Sharing Networks: "Medishare," "Samaritain," or "Christian Healthcare Ministries." Although these are largely run by Protestants, it may be appropriate to cooperate with our separated brethren in these ministries of Charity, according to article 14 of the Pope's recent motu propio "On the Service of Charity." This would be a good short-term approach.

(2)--The best long-term approach is to form a Catholic version of these charitable ministries in each and every parish across the United States. This kind of thing is what the Pope is specifically asking for in article 9 of the same motu propio. The Holy Father even goes on further to describe how there could be cooperation between neighboring parishes, and even suggests that there could be coordination between neighboring bishops, in article 12, paragraph 2. [Even though Pope emeritus Benedict XVI has retired, this motu propio remains effective because each article was incorporated into Canon Law.] To help get parish-based healthcare ministries started, there is a group membership option under CHM.  According to article 1 of the motu propio, such a parish-based association of the faithful for the purposes of healthcare would need to submit statutes concerning the governing of funds, to be approved by the pastor. The Knights of Columbus already have a good model in place for this, because they were originally instituted for this very purpose, with each council having a Treasurer to assist members in the case of "accident, illness, or need," and a Financial Secretary to collect money and to keep track of the Treasurer.


Pope Benedict cautions against an impersonal endeavor that is limited only to "collecting and distributing funds" (Introduction), noting that the parish-based ministries must "also promote in the whole community educational activities aimed at fostering a spirit of sharing and authentic charity." (article 9) In practice, this means, when we see someone in need, we should first consider if it is possible to help them ourselves, under our own initiatives, before getting the parish-based ministry involved in the matter. [This is our own opportunity to touch Christ in the poor!] This would be a perfect example of the principles of Solidarity and Subsidiarity, after the model of Christ, [the King of the Universe, who does not feel it beneath His dignity to wash us clean, if only we would let him!]

N.B.--There is also a third course of action, which must not be overlooked:
Small Christian Communities. There is a good example of this with Presentation Ministries.