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The Ethics of Care of the Dying Person (2013)

A pdf of this document is available here.

The Ethics of Care of the Dying Person

I. A Catholic Ethical Framework

The governing principle

3. The life of every human being, as made in the image of God, possesses an intrinsic worth or dignity which must be given strict respect in accordance with the fundamental requirements of justice.

Basic guidelines

8. Our responsibilities and relationships with others and the central importance of our relationship with God require that we should seek to remain conscious throughout the process of dying, where we would normally be conscious. There are appropriate reasons for use of sedatives, even though this may lead to some clouding of consciousness/ drowsiness. Exceptionally, for example, if someone were in severe intractable pain that could not be alleviated in any other way, it would be permissible to sedate that person to the point of unconsciousness. Given advances in palliative medicine, this should rarely be necessary. It is quite common that people slip into unconsciousness naturally as part of the process of dying, but it is not right deliberately to deprive a dying person of consciousness without a serious reason.