The Synod of the Covenant is asking the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to approve the production of a new “pastoral and educational booklet” on end-of-life issues written by Presbyterian ethicists and physicians.
The overture’s rationale states since past PCUSA resources have been developed, “matters have become even more complex than they were, as scientific and technological developments have increased the capacity to prolong human life and laws have expanded the legal choices for those facing terminal illness.”
“In light of these new possibilities and the moral challenges they entail, Presbyterian witness to the covenantal character of human life in creation, sustenance and redemption needs to be renewed and clarified. Presbyterian ethicists have written significant work since the 1990s, and some would be willing to contribute to a concise consensus statement for the church, identifying theological concerns and Christian values at stake,” the rationale reads.
Overture 060 (business item 9-10) requests that the GA direct the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) to “convene a 7-8 person team of Presbyterian ethicists and physicians, including one or more drafters, to produce a pastoral and educational booklet giving guidance on:
a. “physician-assisted suicide (PAS);
b. “palliative and terminal sedation, withholding/withdrawing nutrition and hydration and other end-of-life treatments;
c. “the role of medical professionals, hospital and hospice chaplains, hospital ethics committees and relevant medical regulation;
d. “pastoral support of dying persons and their families;
e. “special circumstances of dying children and the dying pregnant woman;
f. “special circumstances of chronically and/or severely disabled persons in end-of-life planning and care;
g. “organ donation in relation to determinations of death and methods of prolonging body functions;
h. “talking with the faithful about end-of-life planning and advance directives;
i. “appropriate governmental and institutional policy recommendations to support the faithful exercise of Christian conscience on these matters.”
The overture calls for the team to have one face-to-face meeting and for other meetings to be conducted by video-phone. The team should consult with the PCUSA’s Office of Theology and Worship and be guided by prior General Assembly policy.
The General Assembly Committee on Social Justice Issues will consider the overture during the June 14-21 assembly which will be held in Detroit, Mich.