Stephen A. Martin, Attorney at Law
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How can Catholics plan for life or death?

Growing older is a natural part of life, and as you age, many concerns may come to mind. Designating assets to your loved ones is a common concern. Clarifying your health care wishes is another.

However, as a Catholic, how can you make advance choices about medical decisions without putting your friends and family in a position to sacrifice their beliefs?

Legal options for medical planning in Missouri

The Church views human life as a gift to preserve. And although comfort and care are necessary for treating the ill, there remains a belief that suffering can be an opportunity to connect with Christ. Therefore, medical advances may make you question how your faith and legal options coincide.

Considering your Catholic confirmation, you likely agree that ordinary care is a necessary part of receiving treatment that aligns with your faith. Meanwhile, the Church does not require you to prolong your suffering through extraordinary measures.

Missouri law provides various advance directives for medical providers to refer to, should you become incapacitated. These include:

  • Outside the Hospital – Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders
  • Declaration on “Death-Prolonging” Procedures
  • Durable Power of Attorney – Health Care

The Church encourages you to prayerfully consider the principles of your faith while preparing for the future, while also recognizing your ability to reason and act on your own free will. However, since interpretation could potentially become necessary, depending on your medical needs, the recommendation is to effect a Durable Power of Attorney – Health Care.

Church recommendations for end-of-life decision-making

You have the right to choose an individual as your health care surrogate. In Missouri, this is your Durable Power of Attorney – Health Care (DPOA).

Whomever you specify to make morally-acceptable decisions on your behalf can guide your treatment options if you become incapable of doing so yourself. That person can honor your wishes while exercising their understanding of the Church’s teachings about respecting life.

When selecting your DPOA, you should choose someone who:

  • Can understand medical options under stress
  • Possesses a strong moral character and familiarity with your alignment to the Church’s teachings
  • Is equipped to make end-of-life decisions that are consistent with your moral and religious beliefs

You might choose to seek spiritual guidance before instituting legal documents that coincide with your faith. Then, effecting your wishes can become a part of your Catholic legacy, even after you are gone.

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