This is Part V in a seven-part blog series analyzing a resolution coming to the PCUSA General Assembly on the end of life. The paper titled, “Abiding Presence: Living Faithfully in End of Life Decisions,” forms the rationale of the resolution and is offered to the church as a pastoral guide to end of life conversation. Read the entire series here.
By Marie Bowen, Presbyterians Pro-Life.
Section D: Special Concerns or Circumstances in End-of-Life Planning
This section of “Living Faithfully in End of Life Decisions” caused me at times to say an enthusiastic, “Yes!” and at other times to be disturbed, discomforted, but only rarely to desire an addition or change to the text. Here the sticky wickets of end of life conversations abide—the things we ought, but rarely do, talk through in our communities of faith.
End-of-Life Planning and Care for Chronically or Severely Disabled Persons
As a pro-life Presbyterian I found much to cheer here as the consideration of pastoral care of those “who are chronically ill or severely disabled” and those with “intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).” Far from being “less valuable that the lives of persons without evident disabilities” those who live with these challenges have much to teach us about the “interdependence of Christian community.” When it comes to medical interventions, the decision “should have nothing to do with the assessment by outside observers of the value or worth of the person’s life.” Pastors play an important role in helping healthcare professionals see beyond “consequentialist” thinking (risk, benefit, and burden) to “making and keeping human life human” a quote from Paul Lehmann.
The writers point out that pastors should know that the “life expectancy of persons with IDD has increased” making end of life issues more similar for all persons. Patients with IDD have the same rights to “make end-of-life choices and have those choices respected.” They are a part of the church community. Pastors can facility the task of “shared decision making” between patients, parents, and caregivers always remembering that “a disability does not devalue the worth of a person’s life.” Advance directives (a prominent theme in this paper) are important for those whose bodies are more vulnerable and “who wish their lives to be prolonged by any beneficial means possible.”