The Vatican reiterated Friday that it considers the removal of feeding tubes from people in vegetative states to be an immoral act.
"A patient in a 'permanent vegetative state' is a person with fundamental human dignity and must, therefore, receive ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food even by artificial means," the Vatican said in a statement.
Friday's statement said the Vatican was asked whether the administration of food and water to a patient in a vegetative state was morally obligatory except when they cannot be assimilated by the patient's body or administered without causing significant physical discomfort. The answer was yes.
The statement said exceptional cases, such as the inability of a patient to cope with feeding or food shortages in poverty-stricken or remote areas, "take nothing away from the general ethical criterion."