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Commitment to Care of the Dying

Ascension Health is committed to the belief that human life, created in the image and likeness of God, is graced with an inherent dignity and value at every moment and at every stage of its development and decline. Rooted in this inherent dignity and value is the right to life to which every person, no matter how vulnerable, has an inalienable claim. Though this right to life is absolute, the obligation to preserve life is not itself absolute. Rather this obligation must be considered in the context of the whole person—including the physical, emotional, spiritual and social needs of each particular individual.

Ascension Health recognizes that illness, suffering and death are inevitable realities of the human condition. The presence of such realities, however, does not lessen the value of human life, but rather, commands reverence, hope and compassionate care. Ascension Health, therefore, is committed to delivering care in such a way that God's presence may be recognized in the lives of the suffering; that technology serves the good of the whole person; that those experiencing physical suffering receive adequate pain management; and that each person is involved in making decisions that directly affect his or her care. Our commitment to provide care in this way extends to those who have entered the dying process. This commitment affirms the rights and value of every person as well as the Mission, Vision and Values of Ascension Health and its local health ministries.

Even with advances in science and technology, our ability to cure is limited. It is not always possible to find a cure for every illness. In some cases, a physical cure may be possible, but involve treatments that are too burdensome. In other cases, a particular treatment may offer some benefit, but not enough to outweigh the burdens of that treatment as far as the patient is concerned. Every patient's situation is different. People have different needs and experience different limits to what they can endure. Moreover, death—as viewed within the Christian tradition—is not considered the end of life and hope, but a passing into eternal life through the power of love shown by the Resurrection. Ascension Health, therefore, recognizes that patients are not obligated to accept treatments that they have determined to be excessively burdensome or that provide no reasonable hope of benefit. No matter what course of treatment is chosen, Ascension Health is committed always to providing competent and compassionate care. This commitment persists as the basis of continuous care, even when a physical cure is no longer an option or a reasonable goal of treatment.

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