A court in the UK has ruled the British National Health Service may withdraw nutrition and hydration from a comatose man, and proscribed publication of the patient’s name. Identified as RS, the comatose patient is a Polish citizen who had reportedly made statements affirming the dignity of all human life and the desire that that life-sustaining measures not be omitted in his own case, should anything ever befall him to make them necessary.
An appeal on behalf of the Polish citizen is being prepared with the European Court of Human Rights, and provision of food and water has been restored pending the appeal.
The Anscombe Bioethics Centre has been following the case of RS. In a statement released to the press on Tuesday, Anscombe Centre Director David Albert Jones said: “From a Catholic perspective, to provide food and drink to those who are hungry and thirsty is a corporal work of mercy. Patients should not be abandoned to die from lack of nutrition or hydration, however that is best provided.”
The Anscombe release reports Jones’ statement on the moral reasoning shown by judges in this case, in which the Anscombe director voices his strong regret that “expert opinion on the view of the Catholic Church was not thought appropriate [by the Court].”
Jones went on to explain: “When, as in the RS case, a Catholic […] is not known to dissent from the Church’s teaching, then this should guide the interpretation of the person’s previous statements.
“In this context, rejection of being ‘kept alive’ when ‘beyond saving’ most naturally refers to rejection of intensive medical treatment and ventilation where there is no hope of recovery, not to rejection of nutrition and hydration where they are effective in sustaining life.”
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