March 5, 2024


It is wrong to stop administering food and water to patients in a vegetative state, even if they never regain consciousness, says the Vatican. A new document approved by Pope Benedict XVI says that tube-feeding such patients is “ordinary care” which should not be discontinued because patients still have human dignity.

An official spokesman, Father Augustine Di Noia, explained that “What we’re seeing here is that the quality of life is not a judgment that is in our hands to make. Life is a gift from God, and the Church has consistently taught that it is a gift that is not subject to the determination and decision of anyone, including the person himself or herself who is ill.”

Father Di Noia contended that the human person has a “dignity which perdures through all of the various physical states which each person experiences in life from the existence in the womb to the final moments before death. At no point can life be terminated for any reason.”

The declaration comes as no surprise, given the Catholic Church’s stand in the Terri Schiavo case. But its main purpose is probably to settle disagreements amongst Catholic bioethicists. Some had claimed that previous statements were vague and not authoritative.