Father Christopher writes:-

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink," said Jesus.

In a recent decision the UK Supreme Court ruled that without needing the consent of the Court of Protection doctors can withdraw food and drink from patients who are in a 'prolonged disorder of consciousness', i.e., a vegetative or minimally conscious state, where the doctors and family members agree that this is in the best interests of the patient. Withdrawing food and drink can be nothing other than a deliberate attempt to end a person's life, for death by starvation or dehydration is in fact the only possible outcome as a result of their withdrawal - euthanasia without the name. It may be generally agreed that medical treatment which is ineffective in alleviating a condition may be stopped, but food and drink are basic to all life and to provide food and drink, even by clinical means, is not medical treatment in the same way as the provision of drugs or a ventilator. God gives life and only God should take it away, but to give doctors the right to deprive human beings of the basic necessities of life is to give them power to act like God. How do we know what suffering a patient may endure during the slow process of starvation and dehydration? For some time the court has had the power to allow the withdrawal of food and drink so there has long been this power to end someone's life, but at least requiring court approval provided independent judgement as to what constitutes 'best interests' of the patient. As Dr Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship and care Not Killing observed, the Supreme Court's decision 'will make it more likely that severely brain-damaged patients will be starved or dehydrated to death in their supposed 'best interests' and that these decisions will be more influenced by those who have ideological or financial vested interests in this course of action: But in any case, even if their motives are pure, doctors and families are being asked to make not just scientific decisions but moral and ethical judgements about an individual's right to life.

We can take some comfort from another recent case in the Court of Appeal where the court dismissed the appeal of a man terminally ill from motor neurone disease to allow him to die legally by means of assisted suicide. The judges recognised that the proposed scheme put forward by the plaintiff, a retired lecturer, failed to provide sufficient safeguards for the weak and vulnerable but also failed to give sufficient significance to the sanctity of life. The court ruled that Parliament was the better forum for determining the issue of legalising assisted suicide; fortunately, private member bills to permit this have previously been rejected by the House of Commons.

I mentioned in last month's letter that each month of the year is dedicated to a particular devotion. August is dedicated to The Immaculate Heart of Mary, a heart overflowing with love for God and for all her children. In 2013 Pope Francis consecrated the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and in 2017 Cardinal Nichols re-consecrated England and Wales to Mary's Immaculate Heart. let us commend to Mary's Immaculate Heart all those who suffer in a prolonged disorder of consciousness.


Fr Christopher.

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