(Note: This webpage is intended to educate the reader regarding the teachings of the Catholic Church on the subject of Living Wills. For more information than what is contained herein, please contact your local priest.)
Q. 1. What is a "Living Will?"
A. 1. A "Living Will," also known as a "medical directive" or "medical declaration," takes effect while you are still alive. It has nothing to do with who gets your property, who is your Personal Representative or Guardian of your minor children.
The "Living Will" is a written instruction (document) that states how you wish to be treated if you are unable to speak for yourself, are terminally ill or permanently unconscious, be it as a result of illness, injury or old age.
Q. 2. Would I be incorrect in believing that "Living Will" endorses euthanasia?
A. 2. "Living Wills" have been known to be instruments of suicide and/or euthanasia.
By this it is meant that a person can indicate in his "Living Will" his desire not to have feeding tubes applied as medical treatments should he be unconscious or in a comma. Anyone who writes such a "Living Will" actually commits suicide. The person who removes the feeding tubes actually commits euthanasia. Both, suicide and euthanasia, are condemned by the Catholic Church.
The Catholic faith does not approve of "Living Wills" that inform medical staff not to provide extraordinary life-preserving procedures on their bodies if they are incapable of expressing themselves and suffering from an incurable and terminal condition.
Q. 3. Has the Vatican ever spoken on the matter of "Living Will?"
A. 3. Yes, in early April, 2004. At that time, Pope John Paul II stated that there is an obligation to provide feeding tubes for those who are comatose. He declared that feeding tubes and hydration for patients in a vegetative state are "morally obligatory." Pope John Paul II further declared that the removal of feeding tubes is called "euthanasia by omission."
Pope John Paul's speech affirmed the church and the Catholic health ministry's abiding commitment to the inviolable dignity of human persons no matter their physical or medical condition and reminded the medication profession of its responsibility of never abandonning the sick or dying.
In conclusion, it should be added that it is not for one or more persons to determine when a person should die. Only God, the Giver of life, has the right to end someone's journey on earth.