In Italy, Support for Those in a Vegetative State
Bioethicist Comments on Committee's Decision
ROME, OCT. 12, 2005 (Zenit) - The case of a patient who woke up after a two-year coma coincided with a National Bioethics Committee decision to defend the non-suspension of feeding of patients in a persistent "vegetative" state.
Salvatore Crisafulli, 38, of Catania, Sicily, fell into a coma after a traffic accident on Sept. 11, 2003, and was looked after by his brother Pietro. The latter also requested and received help from Francesco Storace, the minister of health.
Salvatore Crisafulli woke up last summer. He is now talking and said that while he was in coma, he saw and heard everything.
Meanwhile, on Oct. 4, the National Bioethics Committee (NBC) approved by a large majority a document in which it expresses "a decisive no to the suspension of artificial feeding and hydration" of patients who maintain normal vital functions and breathe autonomously, even if they are not conscious.
Commenting on the NBC decision, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, stressed on Vatican Radio that the "patient in a persistent vegetative state is not dead."
"He only needs to be fed artificially because otherwise he would die of hunger," said the prelate. "Feeding and hydration are not therapeutic cruelty. ... It is not a question of therapy, it is a vital support that is provided as a duty for any person who is alive."
The NBC decision presumably might exclude in Italy a death similar to that of Terri Schiavo in Florida.
To understand better the implications of these two cases, ZENIT interviewed Dr. Claudia Navarini, professor at the School of Bioethics of the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University.
Q: What do you think of the document recently approved by the NBC?
Navarini: This document of imminent publication is of utmost importance, because it clarifies a doubt that in Terri Schiavo's case assailed many, namely, that artificial feeding and hydration can be "disproportionate" means which must be suspended in terminal phase or in serious conditions such as the vegetative state.
To give water and food are not medical acts, and do not configure cases of therapeutic cruelty, at least until it doesn't become obvious that they are totally useless, namely, that the organism is not capable of assimilating them.
They are, on the contrary, basic, normal care that must be assured to all patients insofar as a form of maintaining human life which can never be given up. On this the committee's document agrees by a large majority.
Whoever does not want to share this judgment is probably influenced by the concept of "worthy life" or "quality of life," which leads to distinguish the value of some human lives from others with discriminatory conduct that I frankly find unworthy in a society that desires to call itself civil.
The question assumes grave dimensions because, as Francesco D'Agostino, the president of the National Bioethics Committee says, the improvement of biomedical technologies makes the number of these patients progressively greater, who at one time could not be supported.
Urgent therefore are health, welfare and social measures to care for these persons in a way that is in keeping with their intrinsic dignity, eventually also with the promotion of home care, which is a great resource for these patients: cared for by their families, they seem to have greater probabilities of recovery or, in any case, are able to benefit from the closeness of their loved ones.
The minister of health himself, Storace, commenting on Salvatore's happy story, said that "it was his family who cured him."
The NBC's positions, on the other hand, had already been adopted by the Pontifical Academy for Life and the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations last year, in the joint document published at the end of the March congress on the vegetative state.
Q: Are there similarities between Salvatore Crisafulli's and Terri Schiavo's cases?
Navarini: It is difficult to see similarities, because cases of unconsciousness -- coma, vegetative state, serious mental disability -- can vary much from person to person, to the point of requiring diagnosis and prognosis that are altogether individual; moreover, the information I have at my disposition is essentially journalistic.
Of course, Terri Schiavo was not in a coma; too much time had gone by. It is not known precisely if she was in the "classic" vegetative state or rather in a serious condition of mental disability with discrete moments of cognitive and communicative competence.
In the Italian case, two years represent a time still compatible with a coma, and all the newspapers in fact speak of him as a case, fortunately not so infrequent, of coming out of a coma.
However, some sources -- and, according to some voices, the testimonies of the family some months ago [in Schiavo's case] -- speak of the vegetative state, namely, of chronic condition or "coma with the eyes open."
If this was so, we would be faced with an episode that proves once more how it is a duty to do everything possible to guarantee patients in coma and patients in vegetative state impeccable therapeutic care -- and not just basic care.
And also whenever hope for recovery is really vain, the fundamental and inescapable truth remains that a man's life -- no matter how sick or disabled, or how precarious his state is -- always has immense value, before which man's dominating will must halt.
In the U.S. the whole debate was reduced to the question whether Terri wanted or did not want to die. But here, the NBC stresses, it is a decision for life or for death. Not even if the patient requests it are we authorized to suspend feeding and hydration, because the intrinsic value of human life also exceeds the value attributed to it by the individual. In other words, we are not the owners of our life.
http://www.catholic.org CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000
Bioethics, Vegetative, Coma, Health
More Catholic PRWire
Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718
A Recession Antidote
Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.
Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell
Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell
Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Franchising to Evangelize
Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Three words to a deeper faith
Relections for Lent 2009
Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell
World Food Program Director on Lent
Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Glimpse of Me
The 3 stages of life
Sex and the Married Woman
A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Modernity & Morality
Just a Minute
Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Edging God Out
Burying a St. Joseph Statue
George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell
Easter... A Way of Life
Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
by Catholic Online
- 'Living Lent': Monday of the Second Week of Lent - Day 13
- St. John Theristus: Saint of the Day for Saturday, February 24, 2018
- 'Living Lent': Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent - Day 14
- 'Living Lent': Sunday of the Second Week of Lent - Day 12
- Daily Reading for Sunday, February 25th, 2018 HD Video
- Daily Readings for Saturday, February 24, 2018
- The Biblical Seal of Isaiah has been found! HD Video
- The Tragic Reason Mass Shootings Happen, and it's NOT the guns HD
- Daily Reading for Saturday, February 24th, 2018 HD
- Spiritual Warfare and the Help of Angels HD
- St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr HD
Learn about Catholic world
Inform - Inspire - Ignite
Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained
Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need
Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online
Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye
Today's bible reading
Products and services we offer
Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books
The California Network
Inspiring streaming service
Learn the Catholic way
Teacher lesson plans & resources
Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education