How do we make sure people die a good death?

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Our guest this week is America’s national correspondent, Michael O’Loughlin, whose recent article is: “How Catholic health care is fighting against the campaign for physician-assisted suicide.”

“[Physician-assisted suicide] is legal in about a half dozen states, and supporters say they hope to take the campaign to about a dozen other states in the next two to three years,” O’Loughlin explained. “It is something that is becoming a reality for millions of Americans.” In light of this reality, he asked: “What does this mean for Catholic hospitals?”

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“The church is against physician-assisted suicide, so it’s not an option in Catholic hospitals, but they don’t just abandon the patients,” said O’Loughlin. Instead, these hospitals focus on “palliative,” or end-of-life, care.

To avoid situations where “[a patient] can no longer breathe on their own, they’re hooked up to a ventilator, and they don’t want to be in that state,” palliative care specialists consider this loss of autonomy “before a patient is in the position where he or she can no longer make decisions on their own,” by “making sure these decisions get made ahead of time,” O’Loughlin added.

O’Loughlin spoke to one ethicist who explained: “End-of-life care often introduces family members to sides of loved ones they have never seen before.” Highlighting the “graces that these people experience” at the end of life, alongside the pain, is a way for those opposed to physician-assisted suicide to get their message across.

Ultimately, O’Loughlin concluded, the question for Catholic hospitals is: “How do we make sure people die a good death?”

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