In this talk, Professor John Paris asks "What is the historical meaning of "ordinary means" to sustain human life? And what has been the understanding for over 500 years of Catholic moral analysis of the obligation to sustain life?"
Is it, as Pope John Paul II insisted in an allocution to a meeting of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life in March, 2000 that food and water must always be provided for patients in a persistent vegetative condition (PVS). Artificial nutrition and fluids, he writes, are not medical measure, but "natural" and therefor are "ordinary means" that are always morally required." PVS is a state of permanent unconsciousness. The record for maintaining a patient in that condition is 37 years, 111 days.
JOHN J. PARIS, S.J., PhD is the Michael P. Walsh Professor of Bioethics at Boston College. He has also been Professor of Religious Studies, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA (1970-1990), Adjunct Professor of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA (1982-1994) and Clinical Professor of Family and Community Health, Tufts University, Boston, MA 1985-1998) and has been a visiting scholar at Yale Law School, The Kennedy Institute of Ethics, The University of Chicago Medical School, Georgetown University School of Medicine, The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and a visiting professor at the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University's School of Medicine. Fr. Paris served as consultant to the President's Commission for the Study of Ethics in Medicine, the United States Senate Committee on Aging, and the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. He has published over 190 articles on the area of law, medicine and ethics in publications as The New England Journal of Medicine, The Journal of the American Medical Association, The Journal of Intensive Care Medicine, Pediatrics, Archives of Diseases of Childhood, The American Journal of Bioethics (AJOB), The Cambridge Quarterly of Health Care Ethics (CQ) and The Wall Street Journal. He is the Ethics Section Editor of The Journal of Perinatology. Fr. Paris served as a consultant and expert witness in many of the landmark biomedical cases including Quinlan, Baby L, Brophy, Jobes, Baby K and Gilgunn.