Daniel Sulmasy Discusses End-of-Life Decisions

HNP Communications Around the Province

DURHAM, N.C. — Ethicist Daniel Sulmasy, OFM, who holds the Sisters of Charity Chair in Ethics at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan, spoke this month on Ethical Issues in End of Life Care at Immaculate Conception Church here. 

Daniel, who holds a medical degree from Cornell University and a doctorate in philosophy from Georgetown University, is a leading U.S. expert on end-of-life decisions. He is often called upon as a media expert on ethics topics and is the author of four books. He is editor-in-chief of the journal, Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics.

Well-Attended Lecture
His March 5 talk was well received, with more than 100 people attending, according to parish administrator Steven Patti, OFM. Since Immaculate Conception is located near Duke University Hospital, Daniel’s subject interested many medical professionals from the parish and surrounding area, Steven said. At a reception following the talk, attendees spoke about how helpful the presentation was in the context of their work as doctors and nurses, according to Steven. 

The talk was covered by The Herald Sun. In the March 8 article, reporter Dawn Baumgartner Vaughn writes:  “The Catholic Church’s position is typical, right in the middle,” said Daniel Sulmasy.  He said the church is against euthanasia and assisted suicide, but has the wisdom to understand that extraordinary measures do not always need to be taken to keep a person alive.

“This is not our final destiny. Union with God is our final destiny,” Daniel said.

Newspaper Coverage

Daniel said that the Church recognizes that Christians have a duty to be good stewards of their bodies, which are gifts. He said that 21st century medical technology brings life-saving measures, but also the burdens of decision-making.

Artificial hydration and nutrition was on people’s minds, according to Steven. In principle, this is an ordinary, but a complicated issue. If someone is in a persistent vegetative state, complications could mean that what seemed like ordinary measures become extraordinary, according to Daniel.