EWTN Catholic Q&A
Re: Hospice and palliative care
Question from LMT on 09-15-2012:

Dear Judie--You have had a couple of recent questions about hospice and palliative care. If someone has cancer that has spread to the liver or lungs or brain and is considered terminal, why is it wrong to offer that person a respite from pain and suffering? It has been my understanding that this is why hospice and palliative care were started--to keep people from dying in agony. Does the Catholic Church not approve of this? Is no pain relief allowed? This is a frightening prospect for those facing a painful terminal illness.

Answer by Judie Brown on 09-16-2012:

Dear LMT

I did not say it was wrong to provide pain relief to a dying patient who is in immense pain. What I did say is that if the intention of providing the palliation is to end the patient's life prematurely, then the practice is immoral and unethical. We have seen how palliative care has been abused in the culture and that is why I raise the question about motive in hospice or in other situations.

Pain relief and the medications used to assuage pain are not bad in and of themselves, it is how the practitioners that use them for the wrong reasons that create the problem.

Judie Brown