The Supreme Court takes another step away from Church teaching

There is utter clarity about Catholic teaching on the withdrawal of clinically assisted nutrition and hydration from a patient to bring about death: it constitutes an act of euthanasia.

Pope St John Paul II was uncompromising on this point. In an address in 2004 he told a conference on treating patients in a vegetative state that the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration, “if done knowingly and willingly” to end the life of a patient, represents “true and proper euthanasia by omission”.

Even before that time our own bishops were speaking against the practice, having witnessed a steady erosion of medical ethics after the law lords reclassified nutrition and hydration as a form of treatment in 1993 so doctors could end the life of Tony Bland, a victim of the Hillsborough disaster.

The Bland judgment marked the crossing of the Rubicon. It was followed by government-backed guidance on treatment withdrawal by the British Medical Association, from the General Medical Council, and finally the Mental Capacity Act of 2005.

End-of-life care involving the withdrawal of food and water was codified into the Liverpool Care Pathway and other protocols and rolled out across the country via financial incentives for creaking NHS trusts.

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