PVS, the future of the priesthood, Gene McCarthy


Thanks to my religious brother, Daniel Sulmasy, for his article “Preserving Life?” (December 7, 2007). By providing the context for the August 1 Vatican document on hydration and nutrition for patients in a persistent vegetative state (PVS), Sulmasy helps us understand the direction taken by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

Under the critical light of the maxim “Good ethics begins with good facts,” I would like to supplement Sulmasy’s article by zeroing in on the faulty reasons given by the CDF to support its arguments. First, hydration and nutrition differ significantly from each other, physiologically and medically. We die within a few days without hydration; we die within weeks without food. Invasive medical procedures can vary by partially or totally bypassing the digestive tract.

Second, the CDF seems to underplay the “burden” of maintaining a PVS patient. The “skilled care” required by a PVS patient does not come cheaply: from $63,000 upwards a year in the United States. This is a heavy burden even in societies that don’t suffer from the “extreme poverty” the CDF considers as an exception to providing such care. Third, the CDF states that if the invasive medical procedures for delivering hydration and nutrition are removed, the sole cause of death...

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