Tuesday, February 22, 2005

237 Death with Ignominy--ours

"Terri is not kept alive by machines. She breathes on her own, and has ever since her incident in 1990. Being paralyzed, she does need help to eat. She is fed through a tube, although her parents believe she might be able to eat normally if given a chance.

The plan is to starve her to death by removing her tube and refusing to allow others feed her. This is supposed to allow her to "die with dignity." A woman in Prince William County, Virginia, just got jail time for starving her dogs. But our judicial system thinks starving is an appropriate end for Terri. Withholding food and water from terrorists is considered torture, but starving the disabled is how we "respect life."

One side of this story can be found at www.terrisfight.org. Terri did not sign a form saying she would want to die. If she had I would disagree with her, but at least it would be her decision. Her husband insists she would want to die, and her parents say she doesn't. There are doctors on both sides. There was a time when the benefit of the doubt would dictate that she be fed, but not today. The concept of "quality of life" as an excuse to end life is a product of the age we live in, to our detriment.

The idea of "death with dignity" is meaningless in this case. If Terri is brain-dead, she has no way to experience "dignity" or anything else. If on the other hand she is still cognitive, as the evidence shows, there is no excuse to starve her to death simply because she can't communicate.

Sarah Scantlin is a young woman who has been in a state similar to Terri's for the past 20 years¯unable to speak or move, and fed through a tube. But to the surprise of her doctors she just started talking again. She is thankful to be alive. It is possible Terri could have the same miracle, if given a chance and the appropriate treatment."

Full essay here.

3 comments:

-epm said...

My comments below don't necessarily apply directly the case posted here. These are just some thoughts -- questions really -- that I've struggled with.

While it's sometimes hard to convey inflection when writing, I assure you if I appear belligerent, it's not my intent.
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In general, I'm not a fan of the vernacular "death with dignity" movement. Certainly not in a carte banche manner. I would rather focus on finding ways to bring dignity in death, choosing first the bring dignity to the dying not death to those seeking dignity. If that makes any sense.

With that said, perhaps we should let decisions such as where to draw the line when providing extraordinary medical care, to the doctors, the patient (or family) and spiritual advisors.

At some point, isn't it acceptable to put things in God's hands and not medicine?

Is it possible our medical knowledge and technology has allowed us to prolong biological functions -- life -- beyond ethical bounds?

Is allowing a natural death to occur ever more ethical that prolonging life through extraordinary means?

Do we have an unhealthy obsession with life? Or conversely, do we have an unhealthy aversion to death?

When does God reclaim a soul? Only after the last biological function ceases, even when that function is facilitated by foreign chemicals and machines?

Are you dead when your brain is only performing primal, reflexive life support functions?

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