Denying Food and Drink to the Living Is Wrong

Article excerpt

Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore was right to intervene in the case of Hugh Finn ("Gilmore to step in to keep Finn alive, Oct. 2). However intensely his wife may feel about the matter, and my feelings and prayers are entirely with the family, the decision to deny ordinary food and water to a patient cannot be treated as a private matter. There are hundreds of others patients in Virginia in similar circumstances, with worse chances for recovery than Hugh Finn's. If he can be denied ordinary care, why not them? And if them, why not other cases of diminished quality of life?

Such cases underscore the need for some clear moral guidelines at the very outset. The United States Catholic Conference Pro-Life Secretariat, after wide-ranging and intensive study, has issued guidelines on the so-called nutrition and hydration issue that deserve the attention of all thoughtful people. They begin from the core premise, the bedrock principle of our Declaration of Independence, that the right to life is sacred and "inalienable." They also point out the elementary moral principle that it can never be right to deliberately intend the death of an innocent human being. …