Living Wills And Living Deaths

Susan Jacoby has an elderly mother who wishes that "no extraordinary medical measures including artificial feeding be used to prolong her life if there is no hope of recovery." Jacoby imagines her mother in a Catholic hospital:

The bishops’ most recent health-care directives, issued near the end of 2009, make it clear that they consider it the duty of Catholic health-care providers to impose artificial nutrition and hydration on patients in persistent vegetative states. My brother and I would, of course, take immediate steps to have our mother removed from a setting where her wishes would be ignored. But what if she had no living children or, like some two-thirds of Americans, had procrastinated about putting her instructions in writing?

A commenter at Secular Right responds:

What the bishops say and what is done in practice are two different things. I’m a physician employed by a large Catholic hospital group (incidentally, in ten years never once has anyone inquired about my religious views, or lack thereof). We follow the same rules/guidelines as other hospitals in these situations. If someone has a living will/valid healthcare power of attorney, we will follow their directions/guidance completely (which is both legally and ethically required).

Obviously we don’t perform abortions and we don’t prescribe birth control pills (though they can be used for other accepted medical reasons, such as hormonal therapy for ovarian cysts). Otherwise, there is absolutely no difference between us and other secular facilities (except that, given our mission, we provide a lot more uncompensated care)