Does the Church approve of living wills?

Lots of attention was focused on living wills during the Terry Schiavo case in Florida. Does the church approve them?

The Terry Schiavo case was a heart-wrenching situation and many of the issues were either misrepresented by inaccurate reporting or by those who confuse emotional reaction with decision-making. The church took a stance on this case, in effect calling the removal of food and water an act of euthanasia by omission. Nutrition and hydration are never seen as extraordinary when they help a person. They are not life support; they are life essential!

The church does indeed approve living wills and some dioceses offer a form you can download online. Living wills must not contradict church teaching. They need to be given to the people who would be responsible for our health care if we are unable to speak for ourselves: family, doctor, clergy, lawyer. Living wills are not absolute documents and at times they may need to be interpreted. Your wishes should be discussed with the people to whom you will give a copy. Finally, living wills, as well as our legal wills, are not omens of death, nor a disrespect for the gift of life. It is a way in which we help those we love take care of us in our final days.

© 2010 Liturgical Publications Inc Used with permission

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