A Living Will is Not About Living

One of the pro-life movement’s pioneers, Joseph Stanton, M.D., once wrote that living wills are documents that are best described as death warrants; Similarly, Julie Grimstad, another heroic pro-life activist, described them as a “passport to death.”  While such descriptions might sound a bit extreme, over time those words have become prophetic. In fact, just this week, I received an e-mail from someone who reads my EWTN online forum, which contains questions and answers on pro-life matters.

My friend wrote the following:

I recently reviewed my “medical directive and living will declaration,” which my wife and I had done in 1996 (we were both Protestants at the time). There are two statements in the document that were disturbing to us. One of them states, “I request that I be allowed to die and not be kept alive by artificial means, heroic measures, or other life-prolonging procedures. In this context, ‘artificial means‘ includes the administration of artificial nutrition or hydration.” The second statement says “I ask that medication be mercifully administered to alleviate suffering, EVEN THOUGH this may hasten the moment of my death.”

He pointed out that he felt that the language was immoral, and indeed he is correct. This is precisely why we point out repeatedly that the language that is, by law, part of a living will can lead to the premature death of a patient if the family is unaware of the implications of such words. This is why American Life League developed the Loving Will. This is why American Life League has reiterated, for years, that folks should carefully examine what they are signing, think about what could happen if they are unable to speak on their own behalf and do what is necessary to protect themselves from the vultures that are becoming more prevalent as health care cost cutting becomes more popular.

Current events suggest that that we must increase our efforts to help others understand what is at stake. For example, the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) is working overtime to convince the public that there is no such thing as mutual exclusivity between an intensive care unit and the provision of palliative care to a patient who is in serious pain. As CAPC states, “The goal is to promote a paradigm shift in the way that critically ill patients, and their families, are cared for in the ICU.” And that’s exactly the point.

While some of us understand that a recovering patient should be comfortable so that healing occurs at a faster rate, there are others who can use so-called palliative care measures for the express purpose of excusing the ill out of life—in other words, causing their death. That is indeed a “paradigm shift” we can live without.

As we know, terminal sedation is allegedly designed to relieve pain, but “[a]n essential component of TS is also the withdrawal of all treatment, including even food and water, so that death occurs as soon as possible.”

Let it suffice to say that if one examines the history of the living will, understanding that the pro-euthanasia organizations created it, little else needs to be said.

Don’t sign a death warrant for yourself! Sign an affirmation of your human dignity—sign a Loving Will. If you have already signed a living will, amend it. It’s never too late … if you are still breathing.

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  • fatherjo

    I knew Dr. Joseph Stanton personally. What a wonderful Catholic physician, family man and friend of life. He and his wife, Mary, (may they rest in peace) drove down to Connecticut in a snowstorm to attend my ordination. I’m sure he’s praying for us and for all who are doing their best to protect the innocent.

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