"Living Wills" and Catholic Guidelines for critical/terminal health care situations.
Last week's topic generated quite a few questions and many asked what are the more comprehensive guides in selecting end-of-life and critical care for oneself or for loved ones.
In particular, the topic of living wills often came up. What is a living will and is it appropriate for Catholic consideration?
, much like its counterpart that communicates a person's wishes
they die, lists treatment options or care that the patient wishes to accept or reject. On the surface, it appears fairly simple and straightforward. However, this is a
simplicity, as all critical care situations are unique. No matter how well-crafted, such a document can never predict all the possible problems that may occur at a later time or anticipate all future treatment options. A living will can be misinterpreted by medical providers who might not understand the patient’s wishes.
The safest option is to designate a healthcare agent who not only understands Catholic values but also shares them and can apply them to the current situation and respond to questions as they arise. This person, usually a close family member or friend, acts as a proxy decision maker if the patient is not able to make his or her own decisions. In choosing an agent or proxy, a person can declare in writing that all treatment and care decisions made on their behalf must be consistent with and not contradict the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.
The New Jersey Catholic Conference of Catholic Bishops (NJCC) has compiled information from several sources on this issue. In addition to the resources indicated last week from the National Catholic Bioethics Center (
), there is an excellent guide, in English and Spanish, approved by the NJCC as a template for a medical advanced directive. It includes guidance in appointing a healthcare agent in the event that such a person is needed to make the critical decisions. It can be downloaded at:
Advance Directives for Health Care
Directiva Anticipada Sobre Cuidados de la Salud
It is incredibly difficult to see someone we love suffering. It's natural for us to want to alleviate their hardship. Adding to this difficulty is the reality that we live in a culture that places value on productivity, seeking to "get rid" of what is deemed "useless". Some people therefore will offer suggestions that, at first, might seem like a compassionate response, but in fact are not. Advocates for legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia will promote their viewpoints with the belief that we can “help” those in need by killing them or assisting them in killing themselves. However, this response does not respect their dignity as one created in the image and likeness of God and ultimately denies their true needs. Each person, and those caring for them at such times, deserves
caring solutions and support when facing physical, emotional and spiritual challenges. Cutting someone’s life short before their time deprives them of unknown opportunities for God’s grace to work in their life. It is so important to place our trust in the Lord at all times and ask for His guidance.
I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much.
St. Teresa of Kolkata (Mother Theresa)
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on Friday, November 2, 2018 at 3:00PM