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Saturday, April 2, 2005

Catholic chaplain at Tufts on letting people die.

Rich Barlow interviews Tufts University chaplain and medical ethicist David O'Leary in this morning's Boston Globe. O'Leary, a Roman Catholic priest, is the author of 1999 dissertation that argues that "Catholicism permits the cutoff of food and water to patients in a persistent vegetative state." The final two exchanges in the interview are especially worth noting:

Q: You mentioned that families have to factor in their own views. I can see some religious believers saying your approach is relativism. There's no universal moral imperative against killing; we're on a slippery slope.

A: If you have sound medical opinion counseling family members that there is no hope, to let someone die is part of our human nature. We're finite beings. Families are always free to make their own decisions as long as they rely on medical opinion and, if they're Catholic, on the wisdom of the church.

Q: What would you say to those who are fearful that letting Terri Schiavo die would contribute to a "culture of death?"

A: I think there are some questions about what the culture of life, versus the culture of death, is saying. The church's teaching is always that life should be respected as a gift from God. [But] we need to rely on the full wisdom of the church's teaching, and when we talk about life, it's usually an active life.

I've been present in many hospice [cases], families who are saying goodbye to a loved one, and it's a very prayerful moment. But we are just letting the person die and go to God.

Earlier in the article, Barlow quotes O'Leary's dissertation:

"Physical life is an important but limited value," O'Leary wrote in his dissertation, which the Catholic Center at Tufts published as a book. "It serves to make possible the obtainment of a more important good: love of God and love of neighbor. When that good is, for physical reasons, not accessible, then medically dependent life may be permitted to end."

("Priest States Case for Allowing Life to End," Rich Barlow, Boston Globe 4.2.05)

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 2 April 2005 at 2:46 PM

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