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Bishops in Great Britain express sadness at death of Polish comatose patient

The Bishops of England and Wales express their sorrow at the death of a Polish man who was taken off life support after being in a coma for over a week.

By Vatican News staff reporter

Mr R.S., originally from Poland and admitted to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, UK, after a heart attack in early November 2020, has passed away.

Having slipped into a coma, since January 13th the man (known only by his initials for privacy reasons) had no longer been receiving clinically assisted nutrition and hydration, due to a court ruling.

Opposition to nutrient removal

The Bishops' Conference of England and Wales took an interest in his case, and sent a letter on 20 January to the Minister of Health, Matt Hancock.

In the letter, the bishops expressed their opposition to the decision of the Tribunal and their solidarity with the family of R.S. and the Polish bishops who, together with the Warsaw government, had requested the transfer of the patient to Poland.

Appeal to human dignity

Now, having learned the news of the man's death, the English bishops have once again made their voices heard.

In a message, they wrote, "We are deeply saddened and we offer our sincere condolences to his entire family", assuring "prayers for the eternal repose of Mr. R.S.".

"Touched by this tragic case," the bishops continue, "we pray that what happened will not be repeated in the future and hope that all those in need of clinically assisted nutrition and hydration will be treated with proper human dignity."

Continuing support for family

For his part, the Bishop of Plymouth, Mark O'Toole, assures, "The local clergy will continue to offer pastoral support to R.S.'s family living in Plymouth, as they have done throughout his hospital stay."

The note from the British bishops concludes with an emphasis: "The Catholic Church continues to oppose the definition of assisted nutrition and hydration as medical treatment. Providing food and water, even clinically assisted food and water, to very sick patients is a basic form of care that should be offered whenever possible, unless medically indicated as unduly burdensome or unable to achieve its purpose."

27 January 2021, 10:48