Ethicist slams decision to "kill" terminal patient

Catholic ethicist Dr Nicholas Tonti-Filippini has condemned a decision to withdraw the feeding tube of Melbourne comatose patient Maria Korp.

Ms Korp - a Catholic - will have just days to live after her life support is withdrawn today. Public Advocate Julian Gardner, her legal guardian, has decided the tube should be withdrawn immediately.

Dr Tonti-Filippini told the Herald-Sun that medical evidence, from both Australia and Britain, showed that a decision to stop feeding people in Mrs Korp's condition should not be made within 12 months.

"It is far too early, on the basis of medical evidence, to have a definite prognosis," he said. "There is no evidence that feeding (Maria Korp) is causing any problems so the only reason for withdrawing feeding is to kill her."

Ms Korp, 50, has been on life support in a vegetative state in the Alfred hospital since she was found in the boot of her car in February. Mr Korp will face court today in a bid to make a final visit to the wife he is accused of trying to kill.

Dr Tonti-Filippini said he fears Mr Gardner's decision might start a "worrying trend" in treatment of people in a vegetative state.

"It is extraordinary that the official responsible for looking after disabled people is now responsible for the death of a disabled person by withdrawing ordinary and reasonable care," he said.

He said research by the National Health and Medical Research Council and the British Medical Council suggested it was premature to diagnose a permanent state of unresponsiveness within 12 months of a person entering such a state.

The Age reports that the public advocate had sought the views of a Catholic ethicist, Mrs Korp's priest and members of her family, as well as lawyers for her husband, Joe Korp, before reaching his decision. He also consulted palliative care experts.

Mr Korp's lawyers told a tribunal this year that his wife, a "devout Catholic", would have objected to ending the life of someone in her condition.

Her priest at Corpus Christi in the outer norther suburb of Greenvale, Fr Stan Lim SJ, said yesterday she had never expressed her views on euthanasia.

Monsignor Les Tomlinson, Vicar General of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, said the church would not take any legal action against the decision, but it believed she was being denied the most basic of human rights.

But Premier Steve Bracks said he was confident the correct decision was made seeing a court had given responsibility to Mr Gardner. Such a decision was made "in the best interests of the individual", he said.

Maria to die within days (Herald-Sun 27/7/05)
Advocate's decision 'premature' (The Age 27/7/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archdiocese of Melbourne

Let her die in peace (Daily Telegraph 27/7/05)
Maria Korp to be taken off life support (ABC Radio PM 26/7/05)
Maria Korp to die after feeding tube taken away (NZ Herald 27/7/05)
Korp food tube to be removed (Australian Associated Press/The Advertiser 27/7/05)
Korp death ruling sparks furore (The Age 27/7/05)
Protector of the weak at peace with himself (The Age 27/7/05)

Cardinal says enough of euphemisms—Terry Schiavo was killed (Catholic News Agency 26/7/05)

27 Jul 2005