Catholic doctors invited to gathering on end-of-life issues - Catholic Courier

Catholic doctors invited to gathering on end-of-life issues

The Diocese of Rochester is inviting local Catholic physicians to gather Sept. 22 for a presentation about end-of-life issues.

The gathering, which will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. at St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry in Pittsford, is intended to help Catholic health-care professionals understand the teachings of the Catholic Church on end-of-life care, according to Jann Armantrout, diocesan life-issues coordinator. The seminar also is intended to help physicians understand the Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment, or MOLST document, she added.

"As technologies develop and as the provision of health care becomes more bureaucratized, there’s a real need for Catholic physicians, for all physicians, to understand how to proceed in this very sensitive area with respect to Catholic social and moral teaching," Armantrout said.

A local doctor, Patricia Bomba, spearheaded the development of the MOLST document, which was approved as a legal document in New York state in 2008, Armantrout said. Bomba, who belongs to Pittsford’s Church of the Transfiguration, is a geriatric and internal-medicine specialist and currently serves as vice president and medical director for Excellus/Blue Choice.

The MOLST document is one type of advance directive, but it’s different from the appointment of a health-care proxy, Armantrout said. The form is intended for use by ill patients who are expected to live for no more than a year, she noted. The patient and his or her doctor discuss the patient’s desired care in a variety of circumstances, and that information is included in the document.

"It is orders signed by a physician that will be abided by regardless of where the patient is receiving treatment," Armantrout said. "It’s a resourceful tool for the patient, the family and the medical team that provides care for the patient in accordance with their medical plan."

Local doctor John Sullivan will give the evening’s second presentation on recent clarifications to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. He will be speaking specifically about physicians’ moral and ethical obligation to provide patients with food and water, including medically assisted nutrition and hydration for patients who cannot ingest food orally.

Sullivan is a specialist in pediatric critical care medicine and pain management at the University of Rochester Medical Center, where he also is an associate professor of pediatrics. He is certified in Catholic health-care ethics through the National Catholic Bioethics Center.

Armantrout said the event will mark the first time in many years that the Diocese of Rochester has gathered local Catholic physicians.

"We hope for a large turnout," she said, noting that a similar event may be held in the Southern Tier in the future.

"We’ll be also listening to everyone to see what sort of future activities will be of benefit to them," Armantrout said. "We really need to offer (Catholic doctors) an opportunity for prompt information dissemination and an opportunity for fellowship and a place for discussion on those issues. That’s one of the things we hope to initiate."

Anyone interested in attending the Sept. 22 gathering or future events should e-mail Armantrout at

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