As said before, this is an optional
SAFEGUARD P FOR LIFE-ENDING DECISIONS
RELIGIOUS OR OTHER MORAL PRINCIPLES
APPLIED TO THIS LIFE-ENDING DECISION
If the patient and/or the proxies have meaningful
they might seek an
official statement from some group of
Such a statement might be a general
statement about all such cases.
Or it might be a statement about the situation of a
Many religious organizations have already created
with regard to life-ending decisions.
When these seem relevant to the patient’s end-of-life situation,
they can be copied and included in the documents being collected.
Such general position statements might be relevant
for the decision-making process of the patient and/or the proxies.
Does this moral system deal with patients in
persistent vegetative state?
As PVS becomes a more common end-of-life situation,
more religious bodies will be making official statements.
Does a permanently unconscious patient still have a soul?
If the patient was in PVS for years, what is the correct date of death?
When can PVS patients be disconnected from life-supports?
If the patient and/or the proxies are
they might want to know how Catholic ethics applies to their
Does the present level of life-support constitute extraordinary or
Or does this level of life-support constitute ordinary support
that should be provided to every patient who is dying?
Roman Catholic moral thinking is perhaps the most developed system
of religiously-based medical ethics.
These thinkers go into such matters as benefits and burdens,
ordinary and extraordinary forms of care,
what is required and
what is optional,
what burdens are proportionate
to the benefits
and what treatments are disproportionate
for the benefits they provide.
Some thinkers even address the costs of terminal medical care.
If your religious doctrine calls for a natural
—not a death caused by any human action—
how does this apply to the withdrawal of food and water?
Some moral principles say that there are circumstances
in which ending
life-supports is a moral option.
Perhaps your system of beliefs holds that
procedures are against the will of God.
If some medical treatments are prohibited,
can something similar
be provided to the patient
without jeopardizing his or her eternal destiny?
For example, Jehovah's Witnesses
can accept transfusions of water or artificial blood
even tho real blood or blood-products are forbidden.
In some cases, religious bodies will not be able to
the question of whether or not any proposed end-of-life decision is
In such cases, the patient and/or the proxies
will have to select their sub-group of religious authorities
who interpret religious doctrine to allow the proposed course of
This might be described as buffet
You select the doctrines that you like and you leave the rest on the
But at least the ethical positions you like
are affirmed by some
of the religious authorities you trust.
But the patient and/or family that wants to make a strong case
that this chosen death was a wise and compassionate decision
with careful consideration of religious beliefs—
then a written statement from a religious body or authority
will be evidence of a thoro examination of the ethical and religious
relevant to the end of this patient's life.
The exact content of any such religious statements need not be made
But it might reassure strangers
that some religious or moral principles supported the life-ending
In difficult and complicated situations,
it might be wise to seek the opinions of several moral thinkers.
Your first moral consultant might recommend seeking additional
And he or she might be able to suggest particular authorities to
Do they know of any individuals or groups who review medical questions?
And, of course, if the patient and/or the proxies
have no reason to consult religious and/or moral authorities
in person by consulting an ethicist
from a particular religious tradition
or by means of reading the written statements of moral principles
created by any person in authority or group of religious leaders—
can affirm any other
moral system they prefer
in fulfilling this safeguard for life-ending decisions.
If the patient and/or proxies wish to identify
any particular set of moral principles,
they can do so in fulfilling this safeguard.
What system of moral principles have they consulted
in the process of exploring options for this end-of-life situation?
And what statements of moral principles do they wish to include
in the complete death-planning record?
HOW RELIGIOUS OR OTHER MORAL PRINCIPLES
WILL DISCOURAGE IRRATIONAL SUICIDE
AND OTHER FORMS OF PREMATURE DEATH
Probably without exception, main-stream religious
do not approve or condone
self-killing is harmful,
irrational, capricious, &
the ethical principles or doctrines of most religious groups do not
And when the patient who is considering an irrational suicide
consults his or her religious authority,
that body of leaders
and that set of doctrines
will tell the suicidal
"Do not kill yourself!"
Likewise, if some relatives want to withdraw
when they consult their religious or other moral authorities,
they will discover that a premature
death is not approved:
If the death will be harmful
to the patient,
based on a misunderstanding
of the medical facts,
taken without exploring all
the options for further treatment,
and finally tragic and
then this was a violation of morality—a mercy-killing,
not a merciful death.
If the patient and/or the proxies have deep
then that faith will probably help them to prevent any premature deaths.
Their religious connections might help them to re-examine
all of their reasons for considering a chosen
And if and when the religious authorities have been satisfied,
the patient and/or the proxies can fulfill their end-of-life plans
with the blessing of
Non-religious ethical principles can serve the same
For example, main-stream, secular medical ethics
can also help the patient and/or the proxies to separate
medical choices that would result in premature death
from medical choices that would result in death at the best time.
In theocratic societies,
the established religious authorities must be consulted.
The religious authorities (individuals or groups of religious leaders)
will approve or disapprove of the life-ending decision.
In secular societies, the patient and/or the proxies
which religious morality to follow
or which other system of moral principles (if any)
to use in making end-of-life decisions.
Whatever system of morality is applied,
it will probably help to prevent some premature deaths.
And even beyond morality,
there are usually laws
against killing other people.
How do moral and legal principles apply to this proposed death?
Created January 2007;
revised 2-13-2007; 3-15-2008; 5-28-2008; 2-6-2010; 5-19-2010;
5-21-2011; 12-16-2011; 1-29-2012; 2-11-2012; 2-22-2012; 3-23-2012;
8-2-2012; 8-22-2012; 12-6-2012; 5-23-2013