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Book and Media Reviews
April 2, 2008

Artificial Nutrition and Hydration and the Permanently Unconscious Patient: The Catholic Debate

JAMA. 2008;299(13):1610-1611. doi:10.1001/jama.299.13.1610

In March 2004, Pope John Paul II, speaking to a conference in Rome on “Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemmas,” made the following statement as part of his larger message:

I should like particularly to underline how the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory, insofar as and until it is seen to have attained its proper finality, which in the present case consists in providing nourishment to the patient and alleviation of his suffering.1

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