Catholic teaching on end of life matters

Catholic teaching on end of life matters

I recently have been updating my estate planning – something that I firmly believe everyone should do at some point. Not only does this make things easier on your loved ones, but more importantly, it’s an opportunity to get educated about very serious end-of-life matters.

Estate planning involves setting up documents, trusts, and systems that make your wishes clear. This is done as simply, or complex, as needed. Creating a will, appointing decisionmakers for medical and/or financial matters, evaluating your insurance coverage, setting up legal entities (trusts) to take care of your assets, and even purchasing and planning your own funeral arrangements are all matters you should address. This removes the terrible burden of your loved ones having to make those decisions and sort out the insurance and legal issues while also dealing with your possible death. It’s really a gift to your living relatives and can be a powerful tool to avoid family fights and animosity that can come up when dealing with end of life and estate issues.

Even more importantly than dealing with physical possessions is establishing a medical directive and decision maker. For that, you need to know what you want yourself. Many people, however, are often overwhelmed by these choices – and they bring up a tremendous amount of ethical questions that many people have never thought about.

Ethical questions

What are some of these situations that you should think about when writing a medical directive? Here are just some:

  • Euthanasia/Assisted suicide
  • Nutrition and hydration at end of life
  • Palliative care
  • Vegetative state
  • Resuscitation orders
  • Use of painkillers to point of sedation

This is often a moment in which many people find themselves relying on simplistic forms that many states provide. Unfortunately, as almost all lawyers will tell you, these medical directive forms are terrible. They are often written so bad they do not even do the things they claim. Long legal battles have been fought over the terrible wording in these directives.

Catholic educational resources:

So where is one to turn? Many parishes have regular legal session and legal help for parishioners to set up estate plans and directives. You could certainly contact your pastor who can likely get you materials and connected to an ethical estate planner.

Finding authentic Catholic teaching can also be hard, but one document can give you a great start: Samaritanus Bonus (The Good Samaritan) It deals with the difficult topics listed above from a pastoral, historical, and scriptural perspective.

Give it a read along with recently updated instruction on Catholic burial and cremation.

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