Life, Death, and Catholic Medical Choices

Life, Death, and Catholic Medical Choices

by Kevin O'Neil C.Ss.R., Peter Black C.Ss.R.


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With the many medical options available for ourselves and loved ones, how do we make informed decisions which draw upon our Catholic tradition and so respect our human dignity and the dignity of others?

This small book, using question-answer format, addresses topics that touch:

  • On the beginning of human life ;
  • medical responses to infertility, stem cell research, etc. ;
  • On life "in between";
  • organ donation, genetic testing, experimental treatment, etc. ;
  • On the end of life
  • pain management, euthanasia, withdrawing life support, cremation, etc.

In Life, Death, and Medical Choices: 50 Questions from the Pews, Revs. Black and O'Neil bring professional training in Catholic ethics into dialogue with questions that people in the pews must face. Using precise language they help us understand the core values of respect for life and human dignity that are the heart of moral analysis and pastoral theological reflection.

Fr. Kevin O’Neil, C.Ss.R., coauthor of 50 Questions from the Pews: Life, Death, and Catholic Medical Choices, was interviewed by Fr. Dave Dwyer on The Busted Halo Show (Sirius Satellite Radio) on April 26, 2011.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780764819537
Publisher: Liguori Publications
Publication date: 05/15/2011
Series: 50 Questions from the Pew
Pages: 96
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.20(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Kevin O'Neil, C.Ss.R. is a staff member at the San Alfonso Retreat Center in Long Branch, NJ. He has published articles in books and journals of theology. He holds a doctorate in sacred theology (SThD) from the Alphonsian Academy in Rome.

Peter Black is a Professor, Lecturer in Moral Theology, and post graduate coordinator at the University of Notre Dame in Western Australia. He has published articles on moral theology in international theological journals and holds a doctorate in sacred theology (SThD) from the Alphonsian Academy in Rome.

Table of Contents

Introduction 7

Chapter 1 Introduction to Questions About the Beginning of Life 13

1 When does a living human being or a person begin? 15

2 What does the Church teach about abortion? 17

3 Is abortion ever morally justifiable, for example, in cases of rape, incest, or in order to save the life of the mother? Is the "morning after" pill OK to use after a rape? 18

4 Is it acceptable for a Catholic healthcare professional to be employed by a hospital that performs abortions, provided she has nothing to do with these procedures? 20

5 Why is the Church against stem cell research? 21

6 What does the Church teach about medical responses to infertility? Are fertility drugs morally acceptable? 22

7 Does the Church have teachings regarding particular methods of artificial reproductive technology, such as in vitro fertilization, surrogate motherhood, and the like? 23

8 My cousin "adopted" an embryo and now has a beautiful little boy. Does the Church approve of embryo adoption? 24

9 Does the Church promote adoption as a response to infertility and, if so, why? 25

10 Should adopted children or children born of artificial reproductive technologies know who their biological parents are? 26

11 I read about a couple who had a baby by means of artificial reproductive technologies in order to provide a perfect match of bone marrow for their sick daughter. Does Church teaching approve of this way to cure a disease in a child? 28

Chapter 2 Introduction to Questions about Life "In Between" 31

12 Is there a right to healthcare? 33

13 What kind of obligation do I have as a Catholic to use my resources to help with the purchase of medicine for my brother? His insurance won't cover the costs, and he's on a fixed income. I'm feeling guilty 33

14 Does the Church have a position on cosmetic surgery? 34

15 When is it morally acceptable to use anti-depressant medication? 36

16 Science and medicine have developed gene therapies in response to findings from genetic testing. Are these therapies morally permissible? 37

17 Recently a genetic testing kit became available. Does the Church have any teaching on genetic testing? 39

18 A friend of mine had cancer, and all treatments were unsuccessful. She was asked if she wanted to participate in an experimental treatment. She did. Is that OK? 40

19 Two relatives of mine died from an untreated medical condition because they refused to see a doctor. Is it right to force people to undergo medical treatment when they seem too stubborn or lazy to do something on their own? 42

20 I recently declared myself an organ donor. What does the Church teach about organ donation? Is there any difference in teaching for someone who is alive or for someone who has died? 43

21 May I donate my body to science? And what happens after? 44

22 I feel guilty about putting my mother in a nursing home. Have I abandoned her? 46

23 Two relatives of mine died from a disease for which they never sought treatment. Both were people of faith and said: "God will heal me if that is his will." Wouldn't God have wanted them to see a doctor? 47

24 Must I visit the sick, even when they are unconscious or if they are awake but do not recognize me? 49

Chapter 3 Introduction to End of Life Section 51

25 Must we always preserve life? 53

26 How can you know whether a measure to preserve life is ordinary orextraordinary? 55

27 What is the difference between medical intervention and basic healthcare? 56

28 What is a living will? 58

29 Who makes decisions about treatment or refusal of treatment? 60

30 Who makes decisions when a patient is no longer competent? 61

31 What is the practical difference between two types of advance directives such as a living will and assigning a healthcare proxy? 63

32 May you have recourse to pain relief even though it hastens death? 64

33 May a person refuse pain relief, and, if so, why? 66

34 What does palliative/hospice care mean? 68

35 Should we always tell persons that they are dying? 69

36 What is euthanasia, and why is it wrong? 71

37 Why do some patients desire physician-assisted suicide (PAS)? 72

38 Is suicide the same as euthanasia? 73

39 Is withholding or withdrawing life support a form of euthanasia? 75

40 Is the withdrawing of artificial nutrition and hydration from a persistently unconscious person a form of euthanasia? 76

41 Is it wrong for the Christian to fear death? 78

42 Is it all right to want to die? 80

43 How do we know that a person is really dead? 80

44 Why think about death now? 82

45 Why should we show respect for a corpse? 84

46 Why can Catholics now be cremated when this practice was once not allowed? 85

47 Can you have a funeral Mass in the presence of cremated remains? 86

48 Can I have Catholic rites for a miscarried baby? 87

49 The priest has come to anoint my sick grandfather. The priest said this was a "sacrament of healing," but he is not getting better. Why does the Church call this a sacrament of healing? 89

50 When the priest arrived at the hospital, my wife had already died. Why did he refuse to anoint her? She was a good Catholic 90

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