Karl Rahner's theology of dying and death: Normative implications for the permanent vegetative state patient

Michael G. Lawler, Todd A. Salzman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

1 Scopus citations


Pope John Paul II's March 2004 Allocution on 'Life Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State' invigorated the discussion of end-of-life issues in Catholic moral theology. Missing from both the affirmative and negative responses to the Allocution was any discussion of a Catholic theology of dying and death. In this article, we seek to remedy that lack by articulating both a Catholic theology of dying and death and its implications for the care of Permanent Vegetative State (PVS) patients. We argue that John Paul's Allocution and the CDF's Responses and Commentary that followed it give priority to dying as a physical, biological event and thus threaten both a patient's corporeal-spiritual reality and the essential freedom to determine dying and death as an act of personal freedom. Substantive implications for the treatment of permanent vegetative state patients flow from our analysis of these documents and their relationship to the traditional Catholic principles guiding end-of-life treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-164
Number of pages24
JournalIrish Theological Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2012


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Religious studies

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