Bishop Conlon Comments April 05

Comments From Bishiop R. Daniel Conlon Concerning Terri Schiavo - 04/05/05


As with any of the faithful departed, we pray for Terri Schiavo, “May she rest in peace.”


Because of the protracted legal battles and the saturated media coverage, Terri Schiavo’s story may seem unique.  Yet, it is a story that is played out everyday in the lives of many people.  From the perspective of Catholic moral teaching, the principles are the same.


Every human person, from the moment of conception until natural death, is endowed by God with inviolable value and dignity.  No human life can be unjustly destroyed, either by oneself or by another.  This absolute truth does not mean that every medical treatment is required to extend life.  Treatments that offer no likelihood of improvement, that unduly burden the sick person or loved ones, especially in comparison to the potential benefit, or that are considered “extraordinary” are not required.


Hydration and nutrition, however, are not considered “medical treatment” in the strict sense.  Even if they have to be supplied by artificial or assisted means, hydration and nutrition are basic necessities of life.  They may never be withheld from someone, nor may someone refuse them.  To do so, actually causes death. 


“Quality of life” does not equate with productivity, self-determination or freedom from suffering.  Nor does “death with dignity” mean starving someone.


As with Pope John Paul II, Terri Schiavo’s death summons all of us to remember that our lives are in God’s hands, not our own.  And only in him do we find true life.