The Catholic Tradition on the Use of Nutrition and Fluids

  • John J. Paris
Part of the Philosophy and Medicine book series (PHME, volume 41)


In an important essay in the 1985 Archives of Internal Medicine entitled “Against the Emerging Stream”, Siegler and Weisband note “that if five or even three years earlier anyone had seriously proposed removing food and water from a terminally or comatose patient, the very notion would have met strenuous objection”. Yet, only five years after the publication of that article, the United States Supreme Court in Cruzan v. Missouri State Hospital ruled that a competent patient could refuse life-sustaining nutrition and fluids, and that, if evidentiary standards set by the state were met, a similar decision could be made for an incompetent patient. That shift in policy and practice precipitated a widespread and at times somewhat tumultuous debate on the morality of withdrawing nutrition and fluids from terminally ill, irreversibly comatose and severely demented patients, a debate in which moral theologians, and at times Catholic bishops, found themselves on opposite sides of the issue.


Comatose Patient Persistent Vegetative State Artificial Feeding Sick Person Artificial Nutrition 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1992

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  • John J. Paris

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