Catholic Herald Staff
Writer’s note: The Nov. 16 edition of the Superior Catholic Herald included an article on the Price County Bioethics Committee and the efforts of member Fr. Jerry Hagan to ensure Catholics are aware of the Catholic addenda available for advanced care planning documents.
In light of the multitude of advanced care planning resources, included here is a follow-up summary of the specifics related to the Catholic addenda, which is designed to be used in conjunction with a legally binding Power of Attorney for Health Care document.
In June, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops published the sixth edition of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. The document, approved by majority vote during the 2018 Spring General Assembly, affirmed the Church’s commitment to the healthcare ministry and covered multiple topics related to the ethical standards of behavior and guidance for current moral medical issues.
Part five of the document specifically addresses “Issues in Care for the Seriously Ill and Dying.”
Directed to Catholic health care service providers, the context and principles reflect Catholic teaching for believers and receivers of health care services, whether in a Catholic medical facility or not.
The introduction part five said, “The truth that life is a precious gift from God has profound implications for the question of stewardship over human life. We are not the owners of our lives and, hence, do not have absolute power over life … Reflection on the innate dignity of human life in all its dimensions and on the purpose of medical care is indispensable for formulating a true moral judgment about the use of technology to maintain life.”
It continues to outline the principles offered in the Wisconsin Catholic Conference’s “Addenda to Power of Attorney for Health Care” as published in the Catholic Herald’s Nov. 16 article.
First, the moral obligation to use ordinary or proportionate means to preserve life; those that offer a reasonable hope of benefit and do not entail excessive burden, impose excessive expense and do not cause significant discomfort.
Second, the option of forgoing extraordinary or disproportionate means of preserving life. Food and water, including medically assisted nutrition and hydration to persons in chronic and presumably irreversible conditions.
Also addressed in the addenda are points regarding deprivation of consciousness without compelling reason, opposition to suicide and euthanasia and necessary comfort measures. It also includes mention of affording spiritual preparation for death through the attendance of a priest and offering of the last sacraments.
The WCC has made two versions of this addenda available, one for Catholics and one for non-Catholics which leaves out the request for a priest.
In an August 2014 press release from the WCC, the difference between a Power of Attorney for Health Care and the Addenda is clarified.
It says, “A POAHC is an advance directive, which is a legal document through which an individual declares the kind of care that he or she would want if unable to participate in decision making.”
And adds that the Addendum, “when used in conjunction with a valid Wisconsin POAHC… (it) communicates a person’s desires, consistent with Catholic teaching, on decisions regarding nutrition and hydration, pain managements, and other health care matters.”
Resources are available at www.wisconsincatholic.org/addenda.cfm and through a search at usccb.org. A more easily accessible copy of the USCCB’s sixth edition of the Ethical and Religious Directives may be found at www.ncbcenter.org under Church docs at the resources tab. That site is maintained by the National Catholic Bioethics Center which covers all things related to the promotion of human dignity in health care and the life sciences.