January 27, 2012

Indianapolis parish to host seminar on end-of-life issues

By Sean Gallagher

Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, 5692 Central Ave., in Indianapolis will host a seminar on end-of-life issues at 7 p.m. on Feb. 9. It is free and open to the public.

Leading the discussion will be bioethics expert Father Joseph Rautenberg, pastor of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Cambridge City, and Dr. Edward Dropcho, a professor of neurology at the Indiana University School of Medicine and member of the IU Health Ethics Consultation Service.

Dropcho is also a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish.

Topics to be discussed include establishing a health care power of attorney, withdrawing and withholding care at the end of life, and advance directives.

For more information on the seminar, call 317-251-7902.

Father Rautenberg said that a seminar on end-of-life issues is helpful because most individuals and families will have to deal with the difficult questions involved in them at some point in their lives.

“When a crisis occurs may not be the best time for taking in and processing new information,” he said. “So it’s good to think about some things before as well as do some other preplanning.”

He also thought that having an expert in Catholic bioethics and a physician who is frequently faced with end-of-life issues is a good combination to lead such a seminar.

“The Church has a long history of taking the lead in the ethics of treatment decisions and medical decision-making generally,” Father Rautenberg said. “So you need good principles. But you also need good facts because the principles need to be applied.

“You just can’t deduce the right answer. You need the information about the actual situation.”

Dropcho agreed that having a basic understanding of the Church’s bioethical principles is helpful for patients and their families.

“Practical decisions flow from that [understanding],” he said. “It certainly makes it easier for people to have that basic framework because I think there is misunderstanding.

“You don’t have to do every single thing that could be done. But, at the same time, we have responsibilities to try to do some level of care.”

Father Rautenberg said that Catholics should be proud of the way that the Church has been a leader over time in shaping consciences regarding medical decision-making, and that they should take the initiative to learn more about its teachings in this field.

“It’s a way to get some tools for learning from the Church on both the value of life and how to be a good steward of life,” Father Rautenberg said. †

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