The pope has said recently that he wants to be kept alive artificially if he lapses into a coma or becomes a vegetable, which right now seems not out of the question. John Paul, who is currently being fed through a nasal tube, last year changed Catholic guidelines for treating dying patients when he described tube-feeding as a normal treatment rather than an extraordinary measure that can be stopped if all hope of recovery fades. “The administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act,” he said, and to remove the tube would be like “euthanasia by omission,” even though the Church has taught that ending life-support was OK if the patient’s chances of living was hopeless.
“The Pope can say any number of things but he has to tell the bishops’ conferences when they have to change something,” added Father James Keenan S.J., ethics professor at Boston College. “He hasn’t done this.” As a result, he said, the U.S. bishops’ conference and the Catholic Health Association have not renounced the more flexible earlier position even though many Catholic leaders support Schiavo’s parents’ demand to continue feeding her. “We’ve spent centuries letting people figure out how they want to go to meet God, and now we have these fairly intrusive claims on a patient,” Keenan said in his critical assessment of how the Pope was changing Church teaching on the end of life. “It doesn’t seem good for the Church to rethink how to die when the Pope himself is ailing,” he said. “The dying of a Pope should not set our agenda.” (My Way via Drudge)