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Living Will and the Catholic Faith

Posted by attorney Vincent LoCoco

The choices one is required to make with regard to a living will (advance medical directive) sometimes seems in conflict with Catholic teachings. A person has to grapple with this decision when they are considering executing a living will.

The Church does allow us to accept a natural death. Thus, Catholics can refuse extraordinary medical treatment to maintain life, when the only effect of the treatment would be to prolong the dying process.

Of course, what fits the defination of "Extraordinary medical treatment" lends itself to vast interpretations.

It seems the Church's disagreement with most standard living will forms has to do with the withholding of nutrition and hydration. The Church advises us that on its face, the providing of nutrition and hydration is not an Extraordinary medical treatment. However, the Catholic Bishops of Louisiana have issued a statement that says Church doctrine does allow the removal of a feeding tube or the witholding of hydration when death is imminent or when the body is unable to assimilate the hydration and nutrition.

As our life spans continue to grow and medical advances keep popping up daily, the issue with living wills and the Catholic faith will continue to present problems for the faithful when preparing their estate planning agendas.

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