David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Those are the words of Pope John Paul II, speaking in March 2004 to an international congress held in Rome. The conference was on "Life-sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemmas," and it was organized by the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and the Pontifical Academy for Life. The pope was able to cut through all the ethical dilemmas. Although he acknowledged that a patient in a persistent vegetative state, or PVS, "shows no evident sign of selfawareness or of awareness of the environment, and seems unable to interact with others or to react to specific stimuli," he said that they should be kept alive indefinitely. Such patients, he insisted, "retain their human dignity in all its fullness" and "the loving gaze of God the Father continues to fall upon them." For this reason, he said, it is obligatory to continue to provide them with food and water, even if this can only be done through a tube. The pope added that to withdraw the tube, knowing that it will lead to the death of the patient, is "euthanasia by omission.".
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