Hi, guys —
My Mother passed away to the Lord on May 12th of
this year. She was in the hospital with septic
shock. After two days in the (ICU) Intensive
Care Unit, the doctors told us she could not
live and would die within two days, at the
most. I immediately called for the priest-chaplain,
who came at once to gave her the Last Rites,
Then the family, about 30 in number, started
talking about removing life support:
- a ventilator
- a kidney dialysis machine, and
- her eight [IV — intravenous] bags.
I gathered them all together in the waiting
room and explained that our Church is a life-affirming
Church; that we don't believe in killing sick
people so that we may be out of our
pain at their being sick. I begged
my father to continue extraordinary
means for the two days the doctors gave
my Mom to live, telling him:
- it would not harm Mom in any way
- she was not suffering
- it would not be overzealous, burdensome,
or disproportionate and
- it would be a demonstration of faith
and hope to allow her do die in God's time,
not in my father's time.
He ignored me and terminated life support
about ten minutes later. Mom died about fifteen
minutes after that, with me holding her hand
I think my father committed euthanasia and
excommunicated himself latae sententiae,
but I've spoken to two priests and they just
don't want to listen to my argument that it
was his intent to cause death, in order to relieve
her suffering, which, at the time, didn't
I am in turmoil and think he should
be tried in a Church court, but it seems that, with all the politically-correct priests we
have here in southeastern Pennsylvania, it might not happen.
- Did my father terminate life support with
the wrong intent and therefore excommunicate
- How do I go about requesting a Church
my father terminate life support with the
wrong intent and excommunicate himself? }
Since your mother was actively dying,
it was not necessary to keep the
dialysis going, the lack of which
would presumably not have killed
her before the septic shock. In other
words, the dialysis was of no real
benefit if she was dying of septic
shock that couldn't be stopped.
As for the ventilator, it can be
removed when a person is close to
death, if it is wished, so that the
person can speak. Removal of the
ventilator would mean, not that you
were killing her by depriving her
of oxygen, but that the condition
she had was killing her. Keeping
her on the ventilator when she is
actively dying could be simply a
prolongation of the dying, which
it is not required to do, especially
since it may be more burdensome for
If, and when, death is imminent,
it is moral to cease certain curative
or supportive measures that are no
longer useful, but the person should
always have basic care:
- hydration and
- pain relief, as long as they
can be absorbed and don't cause
If others needed to see your mom,
or she needs to see them, then one
might have a duty to keep her on
the ventilator until the serious
business was completed.
Without knowing all the medical facts,
your Dad may or may not have intended
euthanasia, but it seems what he
did does not necessarily or objectively
qualify as an act of intended euthanasia.
Don't let your anger at your father
interfere with the proper grieving
of your mother. Don't rush to judgment.
Thank you very much, for
your prompt reply.
I agree that extraordinary means could have licitly been removed,
but only if my father's intent was
licit. Mom was in a medically-induced coma,
so unfortunately she could not indicate
her desires; she had no advance directive.
I suppose the sticky point for
me revolves around my father's intent. I believe his intent in withdrawing extraordinary means of life support
was to cause or hasten Mom's death
in order to alleviate all human suffering however the suffering he sought
to alleviate was his own, not Mom's.
I believe this for two reasons.
First, on Tuesday, May 11, 2010,
coma was medically induced. At that
time, while the medical staff was
trying so hard to help her, my father
was telling her:
It's OK to go, Patricia.
I was stunned. I thought to myself,
You're telling her it's OK to
die while everyone is trying to
help her live?
Who are you to tell someone when
it's OK to die?
- Second, my father told me years ago,
when Mom's health began a sort of
decline, but not a dramatic decline,
that he would never want to see her
- like a vegetable
- in a wheelchair, or
- be unable to use the toilet without
What sort of a life would
I told him at that time that:
- I was sure Mom's death was many
years away; it was years away,
- God would take care of her,
no matter what happened, and
- I didn't think we can judge
the quality of another person's
to which he made no reply. This indicates,
to me, a predisposition to commit
Two months ago, with my Mom's
cremains still in an urn in his
closet, I e-mailed him and
CC'd the Archdiocesan Vicar for
our county and the Vice-Chancellor
for our archdiocese. I pointed
out to him that by not burying
or interring Mom's cremains he
was violating several Church requirements,
which I listed. This did prompt
him to bury Mom's cremains with
the Rite of Committal, which was
held this past Thursday.
In my e-mail, I specifically pointed
out to him that I believed he withdrew extraordinary means to cause my Mom's
death and to eliminate human suffering.
I further challenged him to deny
my accusation if he disagreed with
it. He has not denied it.
- Do these factors help you evaluate
this matter further?
Thank you so much for your time and
It is not for us to judge intent.
One must not judge the moral intent
of another. If what he did was not
materially evil, then his intent,
if you positively know it by what
he said, could perhaps be a reason
to be angry at him, or, better, to
be sad for him in his ignorance,
distress, or weakness.
Nevertheless, it is not a matter
for any court other than the court
of the Sacrament of Penance.