Abstract

Compelled by recent public and politicized cases in which withdrawal of nutrition and hydration were at issue, this essay examines recent Church statements and argues that the distinction between private and public forms of human life is being lost. Effacing the distinction between the sphere of the home (oikos), where the maintenance of life (zoē) occurs, and the city (polis), where political and public life (bios) occurs, may have unforeseen and unwanted consequences. Through their well-intentioned efforts to preserve the sanctity of life, certain bishops and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have unfortunately brought political considerations into the home, taking decision-making authority away from those most intimately related to the patient. Thus, the question of removing nutrition and hydration in the case of patients such as Schiavo and Englaro becomes politicized and abstract, in contrast with the Church's previous positions on the importance of proportionate means in the maintenance of life, local decision making, and its recognition of life as a penultimate end.

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