First question: Is the administration of food and water (whether by natural or artificial means) to a patient in a "vegetative state" morally obligatory except when they cannot be assimilated by the patient’s body or cannot be administered to the patient without causing significant physical discomfort?
Response: Yes. The administration of food and water even by artificial means is, in principle, an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving life. It is therefore obligatory to the extent to which, and for as long as, it is shown to accomplish its proper finality, which is the hydration and nourishment of the patient. In this way suffering and death by starvation and dehydration are prevented.
Second question: When nutrition and hydration are being supplied by artificial means to a patient in a "permanent vegetative state", may they be discontinued when competent physicians judge with moral certainty that the patient will never recover consciousness?
Response: No. A patient in a "permanent vegetative state" is a person with fundamental human dignity and must, therefore, receive ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food even by artificial means.
Once again the CDF has issued a document with nothing really new in it, but it is great to see them give such a clarification since there is so much confusion on the subject and theologians around the world and especially here in the states whose own views are out of whack with what Pope John Paul II had taught on the subject.
The CDF has also issued a lengthy commentary on this.
In a document approved by Pope Benedict, the Vatican’s doctrinal department said tube-feeding such patients presumed to be near death was "ordinary" care that should not be discontinued because the patients still had human dignity.
Reuters in an article distorts what the CDF said since there is no mention of "near death."
The Church opposes euthanasia but teaches that extraordinary — that is, overly aggressive and possibly painful — means of artificial life support can be stopped if the family wishes.
A person has a moral obligation to use ordianr or proportionate means of preserving his or her life. Proportionate means are those that in the judgment of the patient offer a reasonable hope and do not entail an excessive burden or impose excessive expense on the family or community.
A person may forego extraordinary or disproportionate means of preserving life.
Notice how it is not what the family wishes, but what the individual wishes and that the criteria is not pain.