End-of-Life Care/Three Beliefs
None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live in the Lord, and if we die, we die in the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s
~ Romans 14:7-8
Life-sustaining treatment and care may be generally defined as any medical or surgical intervention or basic form of care without which a person cannot live. Stewardship of the gift of life includes the universal moral obligation to conserve human life in a way that corresponds appropriately to the condition of a person’s life—our own or anyone for whom we have responsibility. This means that life-sustaining treatment and care that has a reasonable hope of benefit and does not cause an excessive burden, is morally obligatory. Any life-sustaining treatment or care that does not have a reasonable hope of benefit or is excessively burdensome is morally optional. This principle from the Catholic moral tradition (the principle of ethically proportionate and disproportionate means) helps us to understand that the extremes of euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide on the one hand, and over-zealous interventions on the other, are to be avoided.
***Please note that on July 30, 2021, a new version of the New Hampshire Advance Directive Law (RSA 137-J) took effect. The new form Catholic advance directive that is found here reflects the revised state law, and it should be used in place of the form that is found on pp. 17-22 of the 2019 edition (the most recent version) of Three Beliefs, as posted here.
As was the case with the form in the Three Beliefs booklet, we believe that this DPAHC form is consistent with Catholic teaching on end-of-life issues and with New Hampshire law concerning advance directives. We have used the advance directive template that is found in the amended RSA 137-J and included instructions that are reflective of Catholic teachings.
The language we have added to the form is in bold type.
Of course, you are under no obligation to use this sample form. Whatever advance directive you decide to use, you should carefully review all of the sections in the document to ensure that they are consistent with New Hampshire law and that they adequately reflect your desires concerning end-of-life care. This form and the Three Beliefs booklet are not intended to provide you with legal advice, so you also should consider seeking the advice of an attorney before completing an advance directive.
We are in the process of updating the Three Beliefs booklet to address the latest version of the law. In the meantime, with the exception of the sections that include the old form or discuss the old form (p. 9 and pp. 16-22), this 2019 version of Three Beliefs will still provide you with a useful guide to end-of-life decision-making from a Catholic perspective.
If you signed an advance directive that was valid under RSA 137-J before this most recent revision to the law, you do not need to execute a new one. Your existing advance directive will still be valid. However, you may wish to review the new form to see if there is anything you’d like to add to your current DPAHC.***
Three Beliefs: A Catholic Guide on Durable Power of Attorney for Heath Care in New Hampshire
Three Beliefs is a document from the Diocese of Manchester that gives valuable assistance to Catholics and others on end-of-life issues. Three Beliefs explains Catholic teaching on life-sustaining treatment and care and includes the New Hampshire Advance Directive form modified in such a way to make it consistent with both Catholic teaching and New Hampshire law. Three Beliefs contains a helpful FAQ section and wallet cards that include important information for health care providers.
The New Hampshire Advance Directive form was revised by a law that became effective January 1, 2014. Three Beliefs has been updated to include a form that is consistent with Catholic teaching and the changes to the New Hampshire form. If you completed an advance directive before 2014 and your intentions for your end-of-life care have not changed, you do not need to complete a new form as long as your advance directive was valid when it was executed. For example, if you completed the October 2007 version of Three Beliefs and signed the document before two witnesses or a notary public or justice of the peace, you do not need to complete a new advance directive form.
Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) (ns. 63–67)
Catechism of the Catholic Church (ns. 2276–2279)
Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services
Vatican Declaration on Euthanasia
Vatican Statement on Medically Administered Nutrition and Hydration
Saint John Paul II on the Patient in the Persistent Vegetative State