Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Life, Death & Catholic Medical Choices: Why Do I Need A Book Like This?

As I wrote in my Catholic Post review of Life, Death and Catholic Medical Choices, the excellent guide, virtually everyone would benefit from having this book on hand:

Some are thinking “I can go ask my parish priest, or read some encyclicals, or read some blogs about these tough issues.”  I say, yes to all of that, especially consulting your parish priest (who might have this book already).  But the well-reasoned and easy to read wisdom of centuries of Church teaching distilled in Life, Death and Catholic Medical Choices is a true treasure."

My own personal story wouldn't fit in my monthly print Post column, but I thought it would be helpful to share here.

In the last few years, both of my parents died within a few months of each other.  There were many medical moral issues that arose during the years before their death; that's pretty common, as I'm sure readers will agree who have had a loved one face death in recent years.

I feel enormously  blessed to be part of a large and trusting Catholic family.  Among parents, my siblings and spouses we had two physicians, too many lawyers to count, and a Catholic moral theologian.  The latter is my dear husband, who has a wealth of wisdom, in addition to a caring and patient personality that could explain and help us navigate through the medical care persons at the end of life. 

And yet with all of that, our family still grappled with issues of treatment and care.   I know that I  would have found this book enormously comforting and helpful to read and consult during that time.

Another factor for many families, and which helped ours tremendously, was a Catholic healthcare setting. Fortunately, after a number of less-than optimal settings, my parents at the very end lived in a Catholic nursing home staffed with caring professionals who were led by a small group of devout white-habited Carmelite sisters.  The nursing home's motto is "The difference is love," and I can't tell you what comfort those loving, well-formed professionals meant to our family.

There was a sad NY Times story over the weekend about the decline of religious sisters leading Catholic healthcare systems.  Keeping the Catholic vision in healthcare, in books like Life, Death & Catholic Medical Choices; is extremely important, I'm convinced.  In preparing my review, I read numerous other books about health care and end-of-life care, and the lack of Catholic vision can lead to some strange conclusions and muddled thinking.  

But keeping the Catholic healthcare we enjoy in our country (and especially in our local diocese, staffed with sisters and dedicated lay leaders) is another critical component to health care.    I'm not trying to say that great care can't occur in non-Catholic settings; I'm sure it does in many places.   But the Catholic history and vision of caring for the vulnerable, the sick and the dying is a treasure we must never underestimate.

What are your thoughts on this?  (Please overlook the strange font size changes, line spacing, and other "creative" things Blogger is arbitrarily applying to this post.  I can't seem to fix it.)

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