Thursday, January 5, 2012

Culture of Life

The priest who is the Executive Director of the Culture of Life Committee  writes, in the Peace Weekly, about the importance of not lying to those who are dying.    Lying is forbidden, but it doesn't mean that the doctor dealing with those who are dying should speak all the truth no matter the condition of the dying patient. The doctor has the obligation to speak the truth, and this precedes all medical and human considerations since it is dealing with eternal life and justice. 

The efforts to be loving and to give comfort to the individual and the family by lying is not permitted. When is the proper time for the doctor to tell a dying patient the truth about his condition? That's for the doctor to decide, but the truth has to be given and not hidden behind wordy subterfuges that tend to keep the full truth from the patient. It is difficult, but this is no reason for not doing it.
All have a right to know the facts of their medical condition in order to assess their  earthly situation and to do what is necessary to prepare to meet God. No one has the right to take this freedom away. What therapy to use must also be the choice of the patient, and this obligation is not satisfied by discussing this with someone other than the patient.
How this obligation is handled by the medical staff depends on their judgement, wisdom and sensitivity. It doesn't mean that all has to be done  objectively but it should be done with love and kindness. Also important is determining the best time to make the situation known so that it will be accepted by the patient and taken to heart. This will require  wisdom on the part of the medical team.
What is most important is the rapport between the doctor and the patient. In the ideal situation, death then becomes not just an inevitable fact, a painful ordeal, but rather when the truth is given the patient, he  will not despair because the truth has allowed him to share  intimacy with others.
The patient facing death is no longer alone but feels understood and loved, has a peaceful and personal  relationship with others, and comes to an  understanding of death, with optimism and transcendence.

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