LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Catholic leaders in the UK reiterated their opposition to the definition of assisted nutrition and hydration as medical treatment, “which has now become the basis of medical and legal decisions to withdraw assisted nutrition and hydration from patients.”
The statement from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales was released after news of the death of “R.S.” – a Catholic patient hospitalized in Plymouth after a heart attack in November which left him in a coma.
Doctors said his brain had been severely and permanently damaged.
The man’s wife and children said he should be allowed to die, but his mother, sisters and niece argued that the man’s Catholic faith meant he wouldn’t have wanted his life terminated.
He died on Monday night.
“We are deeply saddened by the news of the death of Mr. R.S. and offer sincere condolences to all of his family both here and in Poland. We wish to assure them of our prayers for the repose of Mr. R.S.’s soul, and in doing so we will be joined by the Catholic community here, whose hearts have been touched by this tragic case,” said a statement from the bishops’ conference.
“The Catholic Church continues to oppose the definition of assisted nutrition and hydration as medical treatment which has now become the basis of medical and legal decisions to withdraw assisted nutrition and hydration from patients. Providing food and water to very sick patients, even by assisted means, is a basic level of care. This care must be given whenever possible unless it is medically indicated as being overly burdensome or failing to attain its purpose,” the statement said.
“We pray that what happened here will not be repeated in the future, and hope that all those requiring Clinically Assisted Nutrition and Hydration (CANH) will be treated with proper human dignity,” the statement added.
Bishop Mark O’Toole of Plymouth said he was “deeply saddened” by the death of the Polish man.
“My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, children, mother, sisters, and niece and with all those who loved and cared for him. Local clergy will continue to offer pastoral support to the family living in Plymouth, as they have done throughout his time in hospital,” the bishop said.
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