Wisconsin bishops writing pastoral on end of life health care
It will offer pastoral support
Wisconsin's Catholic bishops will prepare a pastoral letter
to help Catholics and their family members make end of life
health care decisions.
The letter will not be a formal, theological document.
Rather it will offer pastoral guidance and support to people
with serious illness - and their families, the bishops said.
"Very few of us will die without medical intervention and
the accompanying emotional decisions regarding our medical
comfort and spiritual care," said John Huebscher, executive
director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference. "The bishops
hope to offer moral support that helps Catholics prepare for
and cope with end of life decisions."
A committee of consultors will be named to assist in the
Huebscher said the consultors will include representatives
of the diocesan health care advisors, family ministers,
bereavement counselors, respect life coordinators, Catholic
chaplains and a representative of the Catholic Health
Association of Wisconsin (CHA-W).
Dramatic advances in medical technology have greatly
enhanced the tools physicians can use in their life saving
work. However, in focusing on saving and preserving life,
less attention has been given to the responsibility to
provide for a dignified, meaningful death.
Demographic changes, coupled with the advances in health
care, have brought new focus nationally to the issue of care
for the dying.
The Catholic Health Association of Wisconsin is pursuing a
broad-based approach to educating health care providers and
the public about comfort care - also called "palliative"
care - and helping various community resources come together
to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the support
services available to the dying and their loved ones.
The letter will address issues such as: the treatment of
dying patients, providing nutrition and fluids, advance
directives and powers of attorney for health care, and the
public policy considerations surrounding these issues.
As Bp. William Bullock of Madison said in his own pastoral
on death and dying: "Learning to live and learning to die
are so intimately connected that we can never fully do one
without the other. We learn to die by the way we live and we
learn to live by the reality that death comes to everyone."
Huebscher said there was no firm timetable for the
completing the statement but previous statements by the
conference have taken a year or more to prepare.