EWTN Catholic Q&A
End of life
Question from Wilson Velasquez on 09-04-2016:

Good afternoon. Just read the Feb 2016 article on this subject, several QnAs at EWTN, and the CCC. One of the common themes I read is that each case is unique and most cases cannot fit into the black and white Catholic teachings, mostly because of the subjective language being used.

With that said, I am in some dire need of some Catholic advice. If you can "dumb" it down for me, I would appreciate it. I THINK I understand the difference between ordinary/proportionate and extraordinary/disproportionate care. Here's the medical facts as I understand them: my mom is 85 years old; she had 10 children (2 still born); had a double mastectomy; a total hysterectomy; has anemia and other issues i don't remember; congestive heart failure; been on chemo in the past and many meds until the time (8/29) when she was diagnosed with pneumonia and put on a ventilator (with ET) and a feeding tube. She also has some "tubes" in her neck (don't remember the name or purpose; I am out of state and hearing different things from different siblings).

From what I hear, the doctors are telling us we need to make a decision soon as they can't have mom on the ventilator and "neck tubes" for much longer. She is not very responsive and rarely even opens her eyes and despite some aspirations, she appears to be assimilating the food (no issues noted by doctors). They want her to get a little "stronger " before they begin weaning her off the ventilator. If she can breathe on her own, then crisis over for now and she can go back to the rehab/nursing facility. IF NOT, THEN WE NEED TO DECIDE ON A TRAC.

So with that background, what questions should we be asking in order to make an informed decision? E.g., if the result is our mom with a TRAC and ventilator, is this extraordinary care? According to my siblings, we are already doing too much for her as she never wanted to be on a ventilator . As you can surmise, time is of the essence so please reply or provide me someone else who can provide assistance. God's peace, Wilson.


Answer by Fr. Jay Toborowsky on 09-05-2016:

I'm sorry for your situation. You probably need to ask this question in the Moral Theology section. Otherwise, I'd also check with your local hospital to see if they have an ethics board. If you can find a Catholic Hospital, even better (they're more likely to have a Catholic Priest own board that specializes in medical ethics).