Page 3 - The Final Journey

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The Sacraments of the Church
are the ultimate expression of this
accompaniment. They offer support to the sick and dying, especially
the Sacraments of healing such as Penance and Anointing of the Sick.
The family also has a serious obligation to request the pastoral care
of a priest to administer the Sacraments of the Sick, namely Penance,
Anointing and Viaticum.
The Eucharist
also becomes a great source of consolation and help in
the final journey to God. Pastoral care should make these sacraments
available to the sick and dying.
Facing death
gives people the opportunity to reflect on the very
purpose of life and the need to be reconciled with God.
The Church should provide patients
with the knowledge necessary
to make good and virtuous decisions at the end of life. Planning
for future care is an appropriate approach, and being able to
communicate personal wishes about end of life choices should be
part of that plan.
The kind of treatment desired by patients,
the place where
they want to spend their final days, the use of cardiopulmonary
resuscitation (CPR), and the desire of organ donation are among the
topics that should be addressed, and are usually included in
advance
directives, or living wills.
The Church approves of the use of
advance directives since they can be very helpful when a person is
incapacitated or at the end of life.
The best advance directive documents
should include an agent/
proxy with health care power of attorney who would be able to
communicate the patient’s desires in real time. The Church believes
that the surrogate decision-maker or health care power of attorney
for the patient “should be faithful to Catholic moral principles and to
the person’s intentions and values” (Ethical and Religious Directives
for Catholic Health Care Services, n.25).
The Louisiana Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (LaPOST)
document is also available in the state of Louisiana for patients with
life-limiting and irreversible conditions. It honors patients’ wishes
based on their individual medical conditions and goals of care. To
become valid, the document is signed by the patient’s physician
after appropriate consultation and shared decision-making. This
document, which can be found at www.la-post.org, is different from
a living will in that it is a physician’s order that can be implemented
immediately and in any place. This document adheres to all the
official teachings of the Catholic Church with regard to end-of-life
decisions. There is a section on the LaPOST website dedicated to
religious and cultural heritage that helps guide the expectations for
Catholics as well as other faith groups.