Archive for July, 2009

Euthanasia and futile care: further Orthodox Christian commentary by physicians, scholars, etc.

Dr. H. Tristam Engelhardt is a physician and an Orthodox Christian bioethicist; I am on the last chapter of his book The Foundation of Christian Ethics, a monumental work. He has also written the following works which bear directly on our focus:

H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr. “Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: Another Battle in the Culture Wars.” Physician-Assisted Suicide, eds. Loretta Kopelman and Kenneth De Ville: 29-41.

H.T. Engelhardt, Jr. “Physician-Assisted Suicide Reconsidered.” Christian Bioethics, 4 (1998) : 143-167.

H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr. “Redefining Death: The Mirage of Consensus.” The Definition of Death (1999) : 319-331.

H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr. “From Abortion to Euthanasia: Rethinking the Value of Life at the End of the Christian Age .” Life-The Human Being Between Life and Death (2000) : 195-207.

Also Futile care for the critically ill patient, available online for a fee

 Moral Pluralism and the Crisis of Secular Bioethics: Why Orthodox Christian Bioethics has the Solution 

Also, Death and Life After Christendom, from the Touchstone Magazine archives:  And here is his profile from Orthowiki:

 Here is the “futile care” category page on a site by an Orthodox Christian who is an Emergency Medicine Resident Physician:

Here is a case study, Care of an Unresponsive Patient with a Poor Prognosis, by Arthur S. Slutsky, M.D. and Leonard D. Hudson, M.D. There are 3 options listed; under option 2, (Write a Do-Not-Resuscitate Order and Transfer the Patient to a Skilled Nursing Facility) in the comments, there are responses by some Greek physicians, one of whom (George Nikos) explains his position with reference to the Orthodox Church:

This unnamed blogger, most surely an Orthodox Christian, provides a concise post with Some links with info on the Terri Schiavo case:  An expose of the horror and injustice of her tragic manner of death.

Khorea Frederica Matthewes-Green has also, through the years, thoughtfully commented on Euthanasia:


This is the last of the 4 posts which have been meant to be Orthodox Christian resources toward the discernment of a stance on futile care. My prayer is that our God-loving Hierarchs and Spiritual Fathers, together with all  Orthodox Christians of true worship, will be granted the wisdom to discern these matters with Light from above, as the issues come before us in a personal way, as they surely will.

Euthanasia and futile care: Commentary by Orthodox Christian Priests

Most of these comments, though not all, are responses to Terri Shiavo’s ordeal. Our Parish priests tend the flock of God, and continually respond to the concrete situations and dilemnas of those in their charge; they are therefore skilled in the practice of applying the Orthodox Christian Way in daily life.

First, Their Daughter’s Death, by Fr. Anthony Michaels, of St. Simon’s Orthodox Church in Ironwood, Michigan:

Fr. Anthony contrasts “scientific definitions and legal decisions” with life according to spiritual intuition and the perspective from faith in Christ’s resurrection. Terri should have been given into the care of those who loved her, he laments.

Fr. David Bissias of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church of Hammond, Illinois also recorded some reflections on “Death Shall Have No Dominion” (versus the culture of death) and “Terri Schiavo and the Culture of Death.” Scroll down to these 2 entries from  this site:

Fr. David  also begins the first of these two homilies with the Truth of the conquest of death through the death and resurrection of Christ, by which we are saved by faith. He also speaks of the U.S. Supreme Court and the culture of death. He concludes the second homily with reflections on Terri Schiavo and the Judgment of Christ (Matthew 25;31-46) in which how one treats “the least of these My brethren” will determine one’s destiny.

Father John Matusiak, OCA Communications director, discusses extrordinary means in the following interview, Thoughts on the Terri Schiavo Case:

The Reverend Johannes L. Jacobse, on, wrote, in October 2003, The Martyrdom of Terri Schiavo:

In strong terms, Fr. Johannnes decries the treatment of Terri Schiavo, which ultimately concluded with the removal of her feeding tubes and death by dehydration in 13 days. The culture of life and that of death are at war.

One can access all the articles on Terri Schiavo on at

Fr. John Breck, Orthodox Priest and Theologian, a Professor at the St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris, France, (PROFILE: has written, in his “Life in Christ” column on the Orthodox Church in America website, in 2008, a very personal three part series entitled When Loved Ones Die. He reflects on the issues in light of his mother’s death: 


He also wrote an essay entitled Maggie, Terri, and the Problem of Life Support: 

See also Father John’s books, The Sacred Gift of Life: Orthodox Christianity and Bioethics. Crestwood: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1999, & Stages on Life’s Way: Orthodox Thinking on Bioethics (with Lynn Breck). Crestwood: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2006.

Daniel Larison, in the American Conservative weblog Eunomia, wrestles with Fr. John’s conclusions in Maggie, Terri, and the Problem of Life Support. In June 2005, Daniel Larison interprets Terri Schiavo’s autopsy results in and then wrestles with Fr. John’s analysis in

It should be noted that in A Life That Matters, Terri’s family (the Schindlers) in chapter 23, “Autopsy,”  address the widespread view of the autopsy, noting that “Almost immediately, doctors began to refute the press analysis of the [autopsy] report.” They bring forward Thomas W. Hejkal, MD, PhD, Dr. Bernadine Healy, Dr. Micheal DeGeorgia, and Harvard neuropathologist E. Tessa Hedley White, all refuting the very possibility of a diagnosis of PVS on the basis of the autopsy. (P. 215)

And [Dr.] Thogmartin conceded that it couldn’t be determined how much Terri’s long period of dehydration contributed to the shrinkage of her brain. (P. 216)

Fr Stanley Harakas addresses these issues on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’s website in For the Health of Body and Soul: An Eastern Orthodox Introduction to Bioethics:

Finally, here is an interview with Fr. Thomas Hopko on An Orthodox Christian Perspective: Living Wills/Health Care Proxy: Another version of Orthodox Christian “Health Care Proxy and Directives:”

The next post will bring forth more commentary on these issues from medical, scholarly, and other sources. Featured will be the work of Orthodox bioethicist Dr. H. Tristam Engelhardt.

Euthanasia and futile care: Orthodox Christian Hierarchical commentary

The Orthodox Church will need to take a stance on “futile care” as the Antiochian North American Archdiocese has on Euthanasia. The tragic Terri Schiavo saga received some Orthodox Christian commentary by our Hierarchs.

According to U.S. laws, Terri was not euthanized; nor, I believe, were futile care laws applied to her. But the narrow frame of reference of  U.S. or Florida law in this matter simply does not do justice to her situation and her ordeal. No matter what definition into which the law puts the removal of her feeding tubes to evade the charge of putting her to death, it was clear to those responsible for the decision that to do so would yield that outcome. Therefore these comments concerning Terri Schiavo  contribute toward a further elaboration of our Orthodox Christian stance on euthanasia, “futile care,” and matters related to these.

First, His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver of the Greek Archdiocese:

His Eminence speaks to St. Paul’s words, “It is better to be home with the Lord.” He feels that since the woman’s (Terri Schiavo’s) soul could not communicate with her body, she naturally would have wanted to go home to be with the Lord.

But this is only one aspect of the matter. There are videotapes extant which show Terri communicating, with her family. These were ignored by the decisionmakers, those who were legally responsible for her, who held her severely disabled life in their hands and  ultimately chose to remove her feeding tubes. She then proceeded to dehydrate for thirteen days until she died. There were those who claimed that she was in a Persistant Vegetative State and did not feel the pain. But many who were more intimately familiar with the situation strongly disagree.

It would be better to be home with the Lord; this is indeed true for all of us. But the way it transpired for Terri, Andrea Clark, Venlang Yo, ( ) and others in their position needs to be addressed.

With permission, from the Spring 2005 News Page from the Orthodox Peace Fellowship’s journal In Communion:

Orthodox bishops opposed starving Terri Schiavo

Metropolitan Iakovos of Chicago: “Human life is always precious and sacred. This is a fundamental tenet of the Orthodox Christian tradition. Each and every human being is created in the image of God the Creator, and can never cease to be loved by God. The highest measure of a quality of life is our personal relationship with God, and this relationship endures the best and worst conditions in which human beings may find themselves. It even endures physical death in this age, continuing in the age to come. Orthodox Christians are greatly saddened by the condition of Terri Schiavo, and must be saddened by the decision … to purposely end her life by the withdrawal of the basic care of feeding and hydration.

“As a gift, life is always to be respected, nurtured and defended by Orthodox Christians. It is not an abstract principle to be debated. We affirm that we are called to be wise stewards of this gift. This prohibits the conscious destruction of life at any stage in the human life cycle, and demands loving care at every stage, for ourselves and especially for the lives of others.

“We acknowledge that there are times when artificial life support is more expressive of a fear of death than concern for loved ones in tragic circumstances. We affirm that in light of the body functioning only by artificial and mechanical means, when it is unable to sustain life on its own in any manner, the cessation of such means is often acceptable, since this is not actually causing death. We do not view feeding and hydration in such terms, for in the case of Terri Schiavo and others who are in similar conditions, death is not imminent as long as the body is nourished.

“Therefore, the removal of Mrs. Schiavo from feeding tubes so as to hasten her death can in no way be accepted or supported. Doing so demonstrates a blatant lack of wise stewardship of God’s sacred gift of life and an extraordinary means of hastening her death by starvation.”

Metropolitan Maximos of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Pittsburgh: “She deserves to live. A miracle is always possible for her to be restored from minimum consciousness to full consciousness … I beg all those in charge to consider the plea of her parents, with whom I fully identify. Murder is a strong word that nobody wants to use, but that is what it is.”

These words, especially those by Metropolitan Iakovos of blessed memory, provide a foundation for an Orthodox Christian stance against the definition of “futile care” that is taking shape in American society.

Also, Metropolitan Jonah’s 2009 Sanctity of Life Speech also addresses euthanasia in a list of sins against humanity which he traces back to the decision to depersonalize others. Here it is:

The next post will be commentary on euthanasia and related issues from Orthodox priests.

Euthanasia and futile care: stories & commentary



Andrea Clark
Andrea Clark (picture from


What is futility, by the Orthodox Christian bioethicist Dr. H. Tristam Engelhardt:

Half of the stories are from Texas, and concern that state’s infamous futile care law.

Personal stories and commentary from Texas:

Sun Hudson: (a health law professor’s account) (another personal response)

Andrea Clark: (the stories follow the commentary) & & Also,

Yenlang Vo: &

Similar personal stories from other places:

Peggy Albedhady, New Jersey:

Kaylee Wallace, Toronto: &

Terri Schiavo, Florida: &

It is clear that these stories reveal developments that are a threat to people with disabilities; so-called experts are deciding which persons’  lives are worth living and which persons’ lives are not worth living!

Perspectives on the Texas Futile Care Law

(Roman Catholic) Also see as well as see also

Stephen Drake, who publishes the weblog Not Dead Yet:

Wesley J. Smith: is in the vanguard of the movement to prevent the legalization of Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide and an opponent of the futile care theory. He does his homework. Here is his website:

An Orthodox Commentary by Christopher Huckabay:

Death with Piety is Death with Dignity,”

Finally, a reprint of the 1994 Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archidiocese’ Statement on Euthanasia:

WHEREAS all human beings who are in a condition of medical dependency because of illness, age, or for some other reason, must be provided with the basic amenities of food, water, cleanliness, warmth and relief from pain. These can never be considered as “extraordinary” measures in the context of medical treatment, and,WHEREAS Christians do not fear bodily death but rather consider it as a Passover between earthly life and the life of the Kingdom. Therefore, all such medical treatments that prolong the dying process while offering no benefit to the individual (with the exception of those ordinary measures previously stated) may, in good conscience, be refused by the individual or those acting on his or her behalf. In some instances, even food and water may become, in the last hours of life when the body may be unable to accept them, a burden from which the sufferer should be delivered: however, these are individual circumstances which should always be judged in a Christian context, and,

WHEREAS the taking of a human life, however understandable the motive, is a serious sin directly and repeatedly forbidden by God. Even where it seems an act of mercy, such as an attempt to alleviate suffering, without sincere repentance, it will surely lead to a loss of God’s Kingdom. As Christians we acknowledge that we do not always recognize God’s will and why things happen as they do in our world. However, we have, as the followers of Christ, promised to place our trust in Him and His love for us and all mankind. This trust includes the patient acceptance of those burdens which may seem, at the time, to be unbearable.

BE IT RESOLVED that this Archdiocese, in accordance with the Tradition and theology of the Orthodox Church condemns all forms of euthanasia or “mercy killing.”

There will be 3 more posts of commentary on euthanasia (and futile care), from 1. Orthodox Hierarchs; 2. Orthodox Priests; (Including the Orthodox Christian bioethicist Fr. John Breck) 3. Physicians, Scholars, etc. (Including the Orthodox Christian bioethicist H. Tristam Engelhardt)

play resources

People in my local community (Lancaster County, PA) have constructed a playground for children with disabilites. It has a name: Daniel’s Den:

And while we are on the subject, here is an online resource specializing in toys for children with disablilities: Lekotek

And here are some more resources related to leisure activities:

Here is my post introducing the website of Disability Arts Online . . .

and my post on Orthodox Christian camps:

Special Olympics Coaches Special Olympics Coaches at Antiochian Village

(Below: The official Special Olympics website):

And finally, for sharing leisure time activities with a friend, Best Buddies:

reprinted from July 2008

Larchet on illness and healing

Jean Claude Larchet

In-depth Orthodox Christian resources, addressing the very heart of our goal in Christ, healing toward theosis: Jean-Claude Larchet’s The Theology of Illness and Healing Mental Illness.

Commentaries (Live URL’s in Orange)

Eastern Orthodox Librarian: The Theology of Illness by Jean-Claude Larchet, Rod DreherThe Theology of Illness

Ora Et Labora: Mental Disorders and Spiritual Healing (1 of 5)

Goodreads: Mental Disorders & Spiritual Healing: Teachings from the Early Christian East

Mental Disorders and Spiritual Healing: Teachings from the Early Christian East by Jean-Claude Larchet. A Review by Jennifer Doane Upton

Larchet, in these books, discusses sin and its impact on our health, mental illness,  the glorification of God through healing, and the “fool for Christ” phenomenon from a perspective derived from the Holy Fathers.

More info on Jean-Claude Larchet: Ora Et Labora: Jean Claude Larchet  

Picture from: Orthodoxologie

from Parenting Special Needs Children

Click on and Special Needs Sites of the Day: Special Programs to access.

There are tons of links which are informative and useful on this website. The site is not based in an Orthodox Christian perspective, but there is a lot here that is helpful which can be taken into consideration as important decisions are made in consultation with one’s spiritual father.


Blog Stats

  • 119,927 hits
July 2009
« Jun   Aug »

%d bloggers like this: