Cardinal Keeler Statement on Florida Schiavo Case; Stresses
Church Teaching on Feeding, Hydration
March 9, 2005
The case of Terri Schindler Schiavo in Florida has focused national attention on
the plight of patients diagnosed as being in a "vegetative" state.
In a speech last year, Pope John Paul II affirmed the inherent dignity of
every human being: "Even our brothers and sisters who find themselves in the
clinical condition of a ‘vegetative state’," he said, "retain their human
dignity in all its fullness." They are not "vegetables," but fellow human beings
in need of our love and care.
The Holy Father added that these patients have "the right to basic health
care (nutrition, hydration, cleanliness, warmth, etc.)." He reminded us that
providing water and food, even by artificial means, is "morally obligatory,
insofar as and until it is seen to have attained its proper finality, which
in the present case consists in providing nourishment to the patient and
alleviation of his suffering."
There are times when even such basic means may cease to be morally
obligatory, because they have become useless or unduly burdensome for the
patient. Deliberately to remove them in order to hasten a patient’s death,
however, would be a form of euthanasia, which is gravely wrong.
I applaud the February 28 statement of the Catholic bishops of Florida,
applying this teaching to the Schiavo case. The bishops reiterated their plea
that Terri Schindler Schiavo "continue to receive all treatments and care that
will be of benefit to her." I join with them in praying that those who hold
power over Terri Schindler Schiavo’s fate will see that she "continues to
receive nourishment, comfort and loving care."