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Catholic man denied life support dies in England

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John Burger - published on 01/26/21 - updated on 01/26/21

Polish bishop reacts, criticizing "barbaric civilization of death."

“Let us say boldly ‘NO’ to the barbaric civilization of death,” a Polish bishop tweeted Tuesday, after learning that a Pole was starved and dehydrated to death in a British hospital.

Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki of Poznan, president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Poland, expressed his sadness at the death on Tuesday of a middle-aged man known as RS in court papers. 

Gądecki earlier this month wrote to the  Catholic bishops’ conference of England and Wales, asking for their intervention in the case. The Polish bishops and civil authorities were ready to transport RS to Poland in order to receive care there.

Archbishop Gądecki’s letter led two leading British bishops to appeal to the British Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

But no action appears to have been taken. The Polish Press Agency reported Tuesday that family members confirmed RS’s death on January 26, some time after the hospital withdrew assisted nutrition and hydration.

In early November, RS had a heart attack at his home in southern England, and his brain was deprived of oxygen for at least 45 minutes. He was in a coma since then.  

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.” The man’s 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. 

The Court of Appeal refused the family permission to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, the Tablet reported.

In their letter to the British Secretary of State, Bishops John Sherrington, an official of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and Mark O’Toole, bishop of Plymouth, where RS lived, expressed their opposition to a re-definition of medical treatment.

“The Catholic Church continues to oppose the definition of assisted nutrition and hydration as medical treatment which has now become the basis of medical and legal decisions to withdraw assisted nutrition and hydration from patients,” the bishops wrote. “Providing food and water to very sick patients, even by assisted means, is a basic level of care. This care must be given whenever possible unless it is medically indicated as being overly burdensome or failing to attain its purpose. The recent court cases concerning patient Mr. RS in the care of the University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust has shown the level of controversy around this definition as judges have been called to make decisions in the ‘best interests’ of the patient.”


HOSPITAL

Read more:
English bishops protest that comatose man should be kept on life support




Read more:
New Vatican document addresses euthanasia: All have right to be loved

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