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Misrepresenting Catholic Theology

December 28th, 2006 by Matt

The Herald has run a story with the no-brainer title “Patient dies after machine unplugged“.

According to the article an italian doctor turned off a patient’s life support system (did the title of the article give you a clue?) at his request. The article went on to suggest that this might be illegal euthanasia, outlined the penalty for such an offence and states that the Vatican is opposed to euthanasia.

This is deceptive reporting. As the Vatican defines euthanasia, this case is clearly not euthanasia.

The Catholic Church distinguishes between failing to save a patient and actively killing a patient. It holds that there is an absolute duty to not kill an innocent human being. However, it does not hold that one must keep a patient alive at all costs and it certainly does not hold that a patient should be subjected to invasive treatment against his or her consent.

Any manual on Catholic moral theology would have spelt this out to the reporter had he or she bothered to read it. Under Catholic teaching one cannot subject a competent patient to life saving medical treatment against his or her consent. Further, any patient can lawfully choose to forgo treatment if it is excessively burdensome and unlikely to have proportionate benefit.

What this shows us is how the NZ media distort and caricature the theological positions of others to paint them in a negative light, a light easy to dismiss because it is a strawman.

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  • thank you for clearing the procedure of Euthanasia. Sometimes, it's pretty confusing how we can draw the line between allowing the patient to die a natural death and really causing the patient to die. We have no obligation to keep the person alive, but what do we really mean by life? If one is brain-dead, is he still living? Can we allow the doctors to pull the plug?