Many of the nation's 500-plus Catholic hospitals may have to rethink their standards for end-of-life care after Pope John Paul II, speaking at a congress on life-sustaining treatments, called removal of feeding tubes "euthanasia by omission." Catholic hospital ethicists long have considered feeding tubes a medical treatment that could be provided or discontinued based on a patient's condition and the family's wishes. The pope, however, said artificial feeding and hydration should be considered basic care for people in a vegetative state and that hospitals have a moral obligation to continue providing it. His words should be carefully considered by Catholic hospitals, their sponsors and bishops, said the Rev. Michael Place, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association, which has 565 hospital members. The pope's comment has "significant ethical, legal, clinical and pastoral implications," Place said. -- by Patrick Reilly
Feeding tube removal may end at Catholic hospitals
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