What do Casey Kasem, Terri Schiavo, and an increasing number of recently deceased elderly or disabled people have in common? They have all been killed by being deprived of hydration and nutrition, rather than dying naturally because of some underlying illness. Sometimes such “treatment” is chosen by the families and encouraged by the doctors, but starving the hungry, parching the thirsty, and killing the innocent is not the will of Jesus.
Christ’s bride, the Church, teaches that the sick and those who care for them may forgo extraordinary treatments in support of health or life, but she insists that providing food and drink belong to basic care. Therefore, except in cases where someone’s condition is both imminently terminal and irreversible, we are morally obliged to provide the sick or disabled with nutrition and hydration, even if artificially.
It is prudent to fill-out a “Living Will” or an “Advance Medical Directive” to declare your treatment wishes and whom you want to make your healthcare decisions if you become incapacitated. However, sometimes such documents suggest check-boxes for immoral or unwise medical options. I recommend (and have prepared for myself) Pro-Life Wisconsin’s Advance Directive to ensure that your medical treatment will accord with Catholic teaching.