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Archbishop Curtiss echoes views of Vatican on Terri Schiavo case

Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss has released the following statement concerning Terri Schiavo:

The Vatican recently issued a statement that Terri Schiavo is facing a cruel death if she is denied nutrition and hydration. The action taken against Terri last Friday by her estranged husband Michael, and tragically upheld by the courts, can be viewed as nothing other than direct euthanasia – an action which of itself and by intention causes death, with the purported purpose of eliminating suffering. Direct euthanasia is gravely immoral and contrary to the law of God, since it offends the dignity of the human person and the respect due to the Creator, the author of all life.

Until this week, Terri Schiavo was not a person in the final stages of the dying process. Removal of nutrition and hydration to such persons could be viewed as legitimate, if, for example, the body was no longer able to process the nutrition or if the continuation of such measures were excessively burdensome to the sick person. Rather, Terri Schiavo is a profoundly disabled person, who, like the rest of us, needs food and fluids to survive.

A year ago, Pope John Paul II addressed the situation of persons like Terri Schiavo in an address to the participants in the International Congress on "Life-sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemmas," noting explicitly that nutrition and hydration must be provided, even if artificially delivered:

"The sick person in a vegetative state, awaiting recovery or a natural end, still has the right to basic health care (nutrition, hydration, cleanliness, warmth, etc.), and to the prevention of complications related to his confinement to bed. He also has the right to appropriate rehabilitative care and to be monitored for clinical signs of eventual recovery.

"I should like particularly to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory, insofar as and until it is seen to have attained its proper finality, which in the present case consists in providing nourishment to the patient and alleviation of his suffering."

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