Unfaithful Means: The Christian Limits of Extraordinary Treatment at The End of Life Open Access

Kothe, Sarah (Spring 2018)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/v405s940m?locale=en


The medical system has changed the way people relate to death. While medicine allows people to live longer and healthier lives, medical technology can also be used in a detrimental fashion, specifically at the end of life. Greater numbers of Americans are using technology to postpone an unavoidable and imminent death. Instead of hope and healing at the end of life, when medicine is used futilely in the final stages of life, undue suffering occurs. This paper seeks to address these concerns through a Catholic lens. Utilizing magisterial documents and the work of recent theologians, a new category of ethical terms, known as faithful and unfaithful means, will be proposed. These terms incorporate the key principles of Catholic ethics to make the case that Christians are not obligated to prolong life at all costs. On the contrary, the most faithful medical care for the dying will focus on alleviating suffering and allowing for a natural death. 

Table of Contents



I. The Foundations of Catholic Bioethics in Connection to End-of-Life Concerns         


II. Ethical Mechanisms for End-of-Life Decision-making: Double-Effect and Ordinary and Extraordinary Means                                                                                 


III. The Limitations of Ordinary and Extraordinary Means                                             


IV. Faithful and Unfaithful Means: A New Approach to Aggressive End-of-Life Treatment                                                                                                                           


Summary Remarks                                                                                                            

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