To the editor:
I cannot hold back from challenging the accuracy and orthodoxy of what Father Richard McBrien wrote in his August column stating “that the withdrawal of the feeding tube (from Terry Schiavo), far from being an act of euthanasia or even outright murder, was entirely consistent with traditional moral principles.”
Granted when this medical procedure was first introduced, moral theologians could and would argue about whether or not providing a person with nutrition or hydration through a gastrointestinal feeding tube was “ordinary” or “extraordinary.”
But as time went on, it became more and more clear that even though such a feeding procedure was different and artificial, not normal and natural, it did not thereby fall into the category of “extraordinary means.”
Extraordinary means traditionally have been determined by the costliness of a medical procedure; by the painfulness of a procedure; by the disfigurement resulting from the procedure; or by the failure of the procedure to produce benefits proportionate to the problems it brings on, i.e., the bad consequences outweigh any good effects.
Although there could be exceptions, feeding a person through a stomach tube did not seem extraordinary.
In order to bring some moral guidance in this matter, a statement was issued by a committee of our country’s conference of Catholic bishops which said that providing a person with nutrition and hydration through a feeding tube should be considered an ordinary means. Not long afterwards, Pope John Paul II authoritatively affirmed our American bishops’ position.
Feeding Terry Schiavo through a tube was not extraordinary before she was starved to death … nor did her autopsy results change that. To say, as Father McBrien did in his column, that “almost every reputable Catholic theologian who commented on the Schiavo case concluded that the use of a feeding to keep Mrs. Schiavo alive was a clear instance of extraordinary means, and as such could be dispensed with” is inaccurate ‚Ä¶ and unorthodox.
Father William J. Cosgrove
Chestnut Ridge Road