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Trevor J. wrote:

Hi, guys —

After watching the movie, "Last of the Mohicans", a scene came to mind and have a question about the man's action.

This movie takes place during the French and Indian War. In this scene, a British officer was being burned at the stake by the Huron Indian people for the blood revenge the British committed against them. While the man was being burned at the stake, the other main character shot him in the head from a distance and killed him so he wouldn't feel anymore pain from the flames.

  • Is it considered a sin to kill the man to ease his horrible suffering?

I understand this falls in line of the modern day dilemma to take suffering people off life support.

  • I was wondering what the Church's feelings were about this issue?

Thank you,


  { Is it considered a sin to kill a man to ease his horrible suffering, similar to life support issues? }

John replied:

Hi, Trevor —

Taking someone off life support and killing someone to stop the pain are not always the same thing. The Church teaches that directly killing someone or taking actions that will end a life,
in order to end suffering, is wrong and never permissible. When it comes to life support, people can't be denied basic life support such as food and water. So a feeding tube and a (I.V.|intravenous) for hydration are considered basic care.

Nevertheless, a person can, in good conscience, reject extraordinary means of life support.
I'm not exactly sure where that line is drawn, perhaps my colleagues might be able to be more specific, but, for example, I believe it's OK to take someone off a respirator, if there is no hope that they can survive without one. You can also decide you don't want chemotherapy, but again, under no circumstance can we directly do something to end a life. That is an intrinsic evil which can never be justified no matter the perceived good that may appear to be accomplished.


Mary Ann replied:

Trevor —

The question of removing the respirator would not be:

  • Can a person survive without one?

because often a person needs a respirator to survive until something is corrected or heals.

If brain function [and/or] heart function are impossible, and the only thing keeping the body functioning is the respirator, then one can remove the respirator.

If death is imminent, life support measures may be removed, provided there is no serious reason for keeping them (for instance, receiving the last sacraments, reconciling with someone, or performing some other serious duty.)

A person may not be taken off life support simply because he has a terminal disease.
The question is complicated and simple at the same time.

I would refer you to the:

Mary Ann

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