The Question of Duty in Refusing Life-Sustaining Care

The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 12 (4):621-630 (2012)
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Abstract

Critics sometimes claim that Catholic moral principles unreasonably oblige patients to adopt life-preserving medical treatments “at all costs,” even when the treatments are excessively burdensome or futile and when their adoption may badly disadvantage patients’ family members or caregivers. The author argues that this is a mischaracterization. Because of obligations arising from our relationships, not only is it sometimes licit to refuse lifesustaining medical care, but we sometimes have a duty to refuse it. This is the case when the treatments are morally extraordinary and when adopting them would unfairly disadvantage someone for whom we have responsibility. The author argues that this conclusion is not inconsistent with the duty we have to properly care for our own lives or with moral principles prohibiting self-killing. National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 12.4 (Winter 2012): 621–630.

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