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Polish archbishop asks UK Church to intervene in end-of-life case in England


Tomasz Jastrzębowski/REPORTER

John Burger - published on 01/19/21

A court ruled that food and water could be withheld from the patient, who has been in a coma since November 6.

The president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Poland has written to his counterpart in Great Britain, asking for his intervention in the case of a Polish man who is in danger of being starved to death in England.

Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, has also weighed in on the issue, Poland’s national news agency PAP reported. 

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki wrote to Archbishop Vincent Nichols, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, saying the man has been “sentenced to death by starvation,” the news agency said. 

The man, identified only as “RS” in court papers, had a heart attack at his home in southern England November 6. His brain was deprived of oxygen for at least 45 minutes. Since then he has been in a coma in hospital. 

Specialists told the man’s family that his condition would never significantly improve and thought life-support treatment should end. His wife agreed and told a judge that her husband had talked of not wanting to be a “burden.” His mother and sisters disagreed, saying that because of his Catholic beliefs he would not have wanted his life to be ended if it could be saved.

A London-based judge sided with the man’s wife of nearly 20 years, reasoning that she would know his mind better. He determined that it is in RS’s best interests not to receive life-sustaining treatment, including artificial ventilation, nutrition and fluids. 

Last week, the Anscombe Bioethics Center in Oxford issued a statement criticizing the court ruling. It pointed out that RS was described as a “practicing Catholic” who had voiced opposition to euthanasia in the past. Although his wife reported that he once said he would never want to be a burden if he was seriously ill, such a statement should not be taken to sanction the withdrawal of basic care such as food and water, Anscombe argued. 

PAP reported this week that the Polish president’s chief of staff discussed the issue with Britain’s ambassador to Poland, Anna Clunes, on Monday.

“It was a difficult conversation. I have also spoken with the Polish ambassador to London, and I am in constant contact with Polish consuls who are on site in Plymouth,” Szczerski tweeted on Monday.


Read more:
Bioethics society expresses regret in case of man denied food and water


Read more:
French court orders food and water be removed from quadriplegic man

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