Health Care Ethics: A Catholic Theological Analysis

By Benedict M. Ashley; Jean K. Deblois et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter Six
SUFFERING AND DEATH:
A THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE

OVERVIEW

THIS CHAPTER CONSIDERS SUFFERING AND DEATH, two concomitant realities of health care and medicine, from a theological perspective. We begin by considering the response of health care professionals to suffering and death, analyzing the phenomenon of fear of death from the viewpoint of Christian spirituality. In the present era we use two different sets of clinical signs to determine that human death has occurred: irreversible cessation of cardiopulmonary function and the criteria for brain death. Hence the ethical evaluation of brain death is considered. Next we discuss the responsibility in Christian care for the dying and dead person of truth telling and respecting the remains of the person after death has taken place, then we consider the ethical distinctions between suicide, euthanasia, and allowing to die and study various aspects of this last-mentioned reality. Finally, we consider patients who are in a permanently vegetative state (PVS), as well as the problem of pain.


6.1 MYSTERY OF DEATH

From time immemorial, human beings have viewed suffering and death and asked, Why? Why would a loving God allow people to suffer? Why would God allow a child to be born with Down's syndrome, or allow the father of a large family to undergo a mental breakdown, or allow a mother to be taken from her growing family when others, aging or without children, are left untouched? People both wise and callow have questioned the meaning of suffering and death since the beginning of time. In the Jewish and Christian traditions, some insight has been gained over the centuries concerning these concomitants of human

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