Schiavo case shows urgent need for ethical directives

December 7, 2005 09:00 AM

"The plight of Terri Schiavo has rightly raised concern about the care of the disabled," said American Life League president Judie Brown. "Unfortunately, too many people are not aware that when they sign a 'living will,' they could be signing their own death warrants."

Brown said several years ago, similar cases led American Life League to develop a document called the Loving Will as an ethical alternative. Typical "living will" language can permit normal treatment to be denied to a person who is not terminally ill.

"Even if you think your living will protects you," she said, "you need to be aware that hospitals may not interpret your medical directives the way you intend. You may rightly say that if you are dying, extraordinary means need not be used to extend your life. However, in many cases, food and water are now considered 'extraordinary means.' Despite your wishes to the contrary, you could face starvation at the hands of uncaring people who would prefer to see you dead."

The language in ALL's Loving Will is rooted in Catholic teachings about end-of-life care. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person."

"The Church also tells us, 'We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of,'" said Brown. "We cannot in good conscience sign a document that would enable others to end our lives by failing to provide normal life-sustaining care, nor can we cooperate with persons who would ask us to take such actions on their behalf. ALL's Loving Will provides faithful, life-affirming options for those who wish to provide written instructions stipulating the type of care they wish to receive if they become incapacitated."

American Life League supplies the Loving Will. It may be ordered from ALL's Resources Department at 866-LET-LIVE. Additional information is available online.

Release issued: 30 Mar 05

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