End of Life Issues: Sacred and Holy

"Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being."
—Catechism of the Catholic Church 2258

God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
—Genesis 1:27

The truth that we are created in the image of God is a profound reality that is often difficult to grasp.  As we consider this reality, our life then must become a reflection of God’s life lived out within us.  How then does this living apply to our dying?  Does not this too need to reflect the life of Christ within us as we draw closer to our eternal home?  Looked at in this context we can never accept the seductive attraction of euthanasia or assisted suicide. 

Suffering is a reality that every Christian must come to embrace.  One only has to gaze at the image of our beloved Lord crucified to remember the merit that is found in suffering.  These words of St John Paul II echo deeply in my heart, “Suffering must serve for conversion, that is, for the rebuilding of goodness in the subject, who can recognize the divine mercy in this call to repentance.” Salvifici Doloris, 12.

Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services: clear answers to end of life questions

When dealing with a serious illness or declining health due to advanced age we are often faced with many difficult questions.  The Church in her wisdom has given us some very clear directives which help to respond to these end of life issues, and the questions that we find ourselves facing.  The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has put forth directives entitled, Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.”   In part 5 of the Directive, it addresses issues in Care for the Seriously Ill and Dying.   Here you find answers to questions that are commonly asked about nutrition and hydration, the use of life-sustaining procedures, and pain management. 

Americare Hospice and Palliative Care

There is only one official Catholic Hospice approved by the Diocese of Phoenix and Bishop Olmsted, and that is Americare Hospice and Palliative Care.  Americare follows the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services and has a Catholic priest as their main Chaplain.   Americare staff and volunteers regularly pray for their patients, and will never advise or participate in hastening one’s death.

There are many hospice providers to choose from when it is determined that Hospice care is appropriate and patients and families have the right to choose their own hospice provider.  Each hospice care provider will implement their philosophy of care a little differently.  At Americare, their philosophy of care is, “We believe human life is sacred…for every person, at every moment.”  

To learn more about Americare Hospice, visit www.americarehospice.org or email Americare’s Catholic Mission Coordinator at bmartinez@americarehospice.org

Advanced Medical Directives and Arizona Health Care Power of Attorney

“To assist Catholics to better understand the Church’s teaching on end of life issues and to provide guidance for those who wish to provide their caregivers with a formal expression of their desire to follow the ethical and religious directives that have been promulgated by the Bishop’s of the United States, I am providing the following information for use as an Advance Medical Directive in the form of a Health Care Power of Attorney that conforms to the statutes of the State of Arizona.” 

Excerpt from Bishop Olmsted’s letter accompanying the Advanced Medical Directives and Arizona Health Care Power of Attorney, May 21, 2012.