Thinking about our own mortality is not easy. It can be daunting as we consider the moral and medical discernments that often arise at the end of life. For those very close to death, a tool is available to translate our wishes directly into orders to medical personnel.
Learn More About Reverence for Life
End of Life
- To Live Each Day with Dignity
- Death With Dignity and the Gift of Palliative Care
- USCCB Physcian-Assisted Suicide Page
Letters & Statements
Stem Cell Research
Life Issues Forum
For on-going information on Respect Life issues, read the Life Issues Forum bi-weekly columns from the USCCB. (Click here.)
Embracing Our Dying
Catholic End-of-Life Teaching
If those who are dying are embraced by their family and their community, they will not seek death, but will live their last days well, and then accept death when it comes.
Dying is just that, an art! According to leading experts in the newly formed medical specialty of palliative care, there is definitely an art to dying, a way to die well. This art, when practiced while alive and well, enables a patient to seamlessly, effortlessly, and spiritually make the transition to the next part of his or her journey.
A collection of material suitable for distribution in parishes as bulletin inserts available in both English and Spanish – inserts include summaries of Catholic teaching on end-of-life, a pastoral guide and information on hospice.
A special series of recorded insights exploring end-of-life issues with Fr. Gerald Coleman, SS, Daughters of Charity Health System and Adjunct Professor at Santa Clara University.
What are the primary differences between an Advance Directive and a POLST form? Can I alter my POLST once it is completed? Do I also need an Advanced Directive? Examine the various questions and concerns people have about the legal ramifications of completing the medical forms that apply to end-of-life situations.
What are the primary differences between an Advance Directive and a POLST form?
What is the difference between a hospital and a hospice?
A hospital is for patients seeking medical treatment to cure their illness or injury. A hospice is for patients who have a terminal illness, who have suspended curative efforts and who want to die in a homelike setting. Hospice care is "comfort care," which can occur in either a hospice facility or in a patient's home.
The hospice patient is attended by a team of caregivers including medical personnel, counselors, clergy and family members. The goal of hospice care is to ensure that the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of patients are all met so that they may live well while dying.
What is an Advance Directive?
A durable power of attorney for healthcare and a living will are both advance directives, that is, directives regarding healthcare decision made in advance of the need to make those decisions—most often regarding decisions at the end of life.
Caring for people who are seriously ill and dying often means steering a course between two different approaches at odds with Catholic moral principles. One is subjectivism, the belief that one's primary responsibility is to oneself and one's particular values, an attitude that gives justification to physician-assisted suicide. The other inimical approach is vitalism, the belief that human life is absolute and must be preserved, at all cost.
On this page you can learn about Catholic teaching on the end of life. For information on the current public policy debate on legalizing doctor-prescribed suicide, visit our End-of-Life issues page.