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Tuesday, March 16, 2004


VATICAN CITY, MAR 16, 2004 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience five prelates from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference on their "ad limina" visit:

- Archbishop Philip Edward Wilson of Adelaide.

- Bishop Edmund John Patrick Collins of Darwin.

- Bishop Daniel Eugene Hurley of Port Pirie.

- Archbishop John Alexius Bathersby of Brisbane.

- Bishop James Foley of Cairns.
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VATICAN CITY, MAR 16, 2004 (VIS) - This morning in the Holy See Press Office, there was the presentation of an international congress on the theme, "Life-sustaining treatments and the vegetative state: Scientific advances and ethical dilemmas," which will take place from March 17 to 20 in Rome. The congress is organized and promoted by the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations (FIAMC) and the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The following people spoke during the press conference: Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice president of the Pontifical Academy for Life; Professor Gianluigi Gigli, president of the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations and Dr. Alan Shewmon, professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Bishop Sgreccia explained that during the congress problems of an ethical and anthropological nature which affect patients in the vegetative state will be addressed. "Some say," he indicated, "that when a person loses the use of reason, he or she ceases to be a person and then there is the possibility of interrupting feeding and hydration in order to facilitate his or her death. As long as there is life in the person," he continued, "that person continues to exist in all of his or her dignity, with all of his or her soul."

Another question that will be discussed during the congress, added Bishop Sgreccia, is whether or not extreme therapeutic care can be suspended in certain situations. The problem lies in defining the methods of therapy and in deciding if the treatment is necessary until the patient's death.

The vice-president of the Academy for Life also referred to another theme to be analyzed at the congress: the principle of patient autonomy and whether or not a patient can decide to eat if he or she is in a vegetative state, as well as medical insurance for those who cannot afford it and necessary support.

Professor Gigli said that 370 people from 49 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Israel and Kazakhstan, will participate in the congress. Forty talks by scientific experts in the field are scheduled as well as 30 reports.
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