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The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly

Volume 16, Issue 3, Autumn 2016

Ann M. Heath
Pages 421-434

Advance Directives to Withhold Oral Food and Water in Dementia
A Surrogate’s Moral Obligations

Euthanasia advocates have recently begun counseling people to create advance directives calling for oral food and water to be withheld if the person reaches a certain stage of dementia. The author shows that these directives are in fact requests for euthanasia, and they leave vulnerable people subject to poor-quality care. Both surrogate decision makers (health care proxies) and Catholic institutions have a moral obligation not to implement such directives, and surrogates, rather than withdrawing as proxies, have a moral obligation to advocate for the life and proper care of the incompetent person. Finally, the author argues that society is morally culpable if it does not strongly resist euthanasia in all its forms. National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 16.3 (Autumn 2016): 421–434.