- No matter what life-sustaining procedure/medical treatment is in question, when in doubt, err on the side of life. A medical intervention can be tried with the option of stopping it if it proves ineffective or excessively burdensome for the patient.
- It is the physician’s obligation to truthfully and fully, in layperson’s terms, discuss with the patient/agent/family/guardian the benefits, risks, cost, etc. of available medical means that may improve the patient’s condition/prolong life. The focus should be on what the person making medical decisions needs to know in order to give truly informed consent.
- The patient/agent makes the decision whether or not a treatment is too burdensome. (Note: The patient’s life must never be ended because it is considered a burden to the patient or others.) If a patient wishes to fight for every last moment of life, this is a legitimate interest to be respected.
- It is impossible to make morally sound, sensible, informed health care decisions based on guesswork about some future illness or injury and possible treatment options. Health care decisions must be based on current information.
- Two extremes are to be avoided: * Insistence on physiologically useless or excessively burdensome treatment even when a patient may legitimately wish to forgo it. * Withdrawal or withholding of treatment with the intention to hasten/cause death.
- The object and motive for administering pain medication must be to relieve pain. Death must not be sought or intended.
- Nutrition and hydration, whether a person is fed with a spoon or through a tube, is basic care, not medical treatment. Insertion or surgical implantation of a feeding tube takes medical expertise, but it is an ordinary life-preserving procedure for a person who has a working digestive system but is unable to eat by mouth. * Acceptable – During the natural dying process, when a person’s organs are shutting down so that the body is no longer able to assimilate food and water or when their administration causes serious complications, stopping tube-feeding or spoon-feeding is both medically and morally appropriate. In these circumstances, the cause of death is the person’s disease or injury, not deliberate dehydration and starvation. * Unacceptable – When a person is not dying—or not dying quickly enough to suit someone—food and fluids are often withheld with the intent to cause death because the person is viewed as having an unacceptably low quality of life and/or as imposing burdens on others. The direct cause of death is then dehydration and starvation.
LIFE-AFFIRMING PRINCIPLES AND DEFINITIONS
All provisions of these principles and definitions shall be construed in the furtherance of the Healthcare Advocacy and Leadership Organization (HALO) Mission.
The HALO philosophy is a system of principles guiding the care, support and protection of the life and inherent dignity of all human beings, both sexually reproduced and asexually reproduced, from the very first moment they are created, when their own developmental process of human life is initiated, and throughout the rest of their lives until true death.
The first and foundational principle of the life-affirming healthcare philosophy is recognition of the common dignity shared by all human beings. This originates in Man being created in the image and likeness of God (imago Dei). From this beginning are three essential truths: (1) man’s dignity is intrinsic, which means it is part of his nature and not given by the state; (2) human life is sacred, which means it is inviolable, special, set apart from nature for man’s relationship with God; and (3) human beings must never be treated as objects.
The second principle of the life-affirming healthcare philosophy is recognition of the equality of all human beings, based upon the principle of solidarity. All human beings are children of God. They have been endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights; chief among these is an equal right to life and an equal claim to that right. Each individual human being is of inestimable value and of equal worth with every other human being. Therefore, no human being nor class of human beings (e.g., the sick, disabled, elderly, poor, preborn) ought ever to be deprived of life for the benefit of other individuals or society.
The third principle of the life-affirming healthcare philosophy is recognition that every human being has a sacred duty to God, our Creator, to protect, care for, and support the well-being of our fellow humans as well as ourselves, whose lives come from Him. Living and pursuit of life should be protected and encouraged for all.
In fulfilling our duty to serve God by caring for, supporting, and protecting the well-being of our fellow human beings and ourselves, we dedicate ourselves to help build a society embracing reverence for the life God gives and protecting individual human beings from the point of their creation, without exception.
“Life-affirming healthcare”: medical care in which the paramount principle is the sanctity of life, which means that the life and safety of each person come first and each person receives medical care across their lifespan based on their need for care and never with an intention to hasten death, regardless of their abilities or perceived “quality of life.”
“Life-affirming Advocacy”: the efforts made by individuals and organizations subscribing to the HALO philosophy and promoting the implementation of that philosophy in society.
“Standards of care of the HALO mission”: life-affirming services which meet the accepted professional standards of care for any specific healthcare profession or service, so long as they do not violate, but actually support, the life-affirming healthcare philosophy, mission and duty to protect, care for, and support the well-being of our fellow human beings and ourselves, whose lives we acknowledge to come from our Creator.
“Preborn”: all human beings prior to birth, including those who are sexually reproduced and those who are asexually reproduced.
“Asexually reproduced”: A new asexually reproduced human being begins to exist through various methods, including “twinning” (blastomere separation, blastocyst splitting, embryo multiplication, etc.) that results in “identical twins” which can take place both naturally in the woman’s body in vivo, and artificially in laboratories and clinics in vitro. Other asexual reproductive techniques include pronuclei transfer; mitochondrial transfer; parthenogenesis; nuclear cloning; triploid and tetraploid complementation; the use of artificial sex gametes derived from iPS, human embryonic, and adult cells; and many other genetic engineering techniques.
“Sexually reproduced”: When used in reference to a human being, a new sexually reproduced human being begins to exist at the beginning of the process of fertilization, i.e., Stage 1(a) of the Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development, whether existing inside or outside of a woman’s body. The human being at Stage 1(a) is referred to as the primordial embryo, since all the genetic material necessary for the continuous growth and development of this new individual human being, plus some redundant chromosomes, is now within a single plasma lemma (cell membrane).
“True death”: the separation of the spirit (soul) from the body. After true death, the remains of the human body are called a cadaver or corpse. Death ought not to be declared unless there is disintegration (destruction) of cells, tissues, and organs sufficient that the circulatory and respiratory systems are no longer functioning and cannot function again.
Vital signs are common signs of life distinguishing a living person from a corpse. Vital signs, such as heartbeat, blood pressure, and body temperature different than the environment, are signs of a living person. No one ought to be declared dead while vital signs are present. A ventilator can only be effective in a living person, not a corpse. After true death, vital organs are not suitable for transplantation because they are decomposing.
“Natural death”: death that is unimposed or unintended.
“Healthcare service(s)”: any phase of patient medical care, treatment, or procedure, including, but not limited to, the following: patient referral, counseling, therapy, testing, diagnosis or prognosis, research, instruction, prescribing, dispensing or administering any device, drug, or medication, surgery, or any other care or treatment rendered by healthcare providers or healthcare institutions.
“Healthcare provider(s)”: any individual who may be asked to participate in any way in a healthcare service, including, but not limited to, the following: a physician, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, nurse, nurses’ aide, medical assistant, hospital employee, clinic employee, nursing home employee, behavioral health services provider, pharmacist, pharmacy employee, researcher, medical or nursing school faculty, student or employee, counselor, social worker, or any professional, paraprofessional, or any other person who furnishes, or assists in the furnishing of, healthcare services.
“Healthcare institution”: any public or private organization, corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, association, agency, network, joint venture, or other entity that is involved in providing healthcare services, including but not limited to: adoption agencies and orphanages; assisted-living centers; hospices and palliative care centers; hospitals; clinics; home healthcare agencies; medical centers; ambulatory surgical centers; behavioral health services practices and centers; rehabilitation facilities and centers; pregnancy resource centers; physicians’ offices; pharmacies; nursing homes; undergraduate or graduate medical, nursing, pharmacological or other allied-health professional training schools; or other institutions or locations.
Questions? Contact the Healthcare Advocacy and Leadership Organization (HALO) at feedback@HALOVoice.org.