Expert Answer Forum

Follow-up on Euthanasia QUESTION from Frances Swank January 15, 2000
I thank you for you response and passed this information on to the physician I work for. This woman I spoke of had metastaic cancer and could not breathe without a ventilator. You asked if the patient's heart was beating, yes it was but due to the ventilator. The doctor I work for decided that he was up against the Church, our Pastor and the family and dismissed himself from the case. Since the woman had signed a living will and the family witnessed her decision, they demanded that the ventilator be shut off. The family became furious at my physician for his decision and so did the Pastor who thought that Dr. R. could somehow block this whole thing. In the end, the family went to a lawyer and within hours it was ruled that this woman's decision was made with a clear mind and would be carried out. Another physician was placed on the case and within two hours this woman had died. I am in total agreement with you when you stated that we cannot be the ones to determine who is to live and who is to die. What can medical personnel do except state our position, move aside and watch the law take over. Everyday faithful Catholics are up against such decisions and face those who do not understand the positions that we are placed in. Thank you and God Bless. ANSWER by Mr. John Miskell on January 16, 2000
Dear Frances, Thank you for the follow-up. This situation shows exactly why we should be careful before signing a living will. I would say that the majority of persons who sign a living will do not understand that some people think that providing food, water, and air to a terminally ill patient are extraordinary measures. Yes her heart kept beating because of the ventilator. My heart beats in good measure because I ventilate. If I stop ventilating my heart will naturally stop beating. I suppose the remedy is to have a medical treatment declaration (living will) drawn up by a sympathetic attorney who completely understands our wish to protect life. God bless you. John Miskell Back to Index Page

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