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Advance Health Care Directives 101

The Catholic Church's Position On Advance Health Care Directives

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According to the Catholic Health Association of the United States:

"The church has not spoken directly on advance directives, but it has affirmed a patient’s right to make his or her own health care decisions. The 1980 Vatican Declaration on Euthanasia recognizes the patient’s right to make decisions about withholding or withdrawing treatment (excluding physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia) in collaboration with family members and physicians. So does the Catechism of the Catholic Church which states: “The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected” (#2278).

In addition, the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs), a document issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that guides the practice of Catholic health care organizations, recognizes the right to execute an advance directive and appoint a surrogate decision maker (Directives 24 and 25). The ERDs also state that a person's advance directive should be followed so long as it does not request anything contrary to church teaching (such as physician-assisted suicide)."

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