A while back, I wrote a story called “A Forward Trend in Education”. It almost won an award, but some muppet-headed nut-job named Bob Wagner scooped it from me by writing and submitting a better story. <pout>
Anyway, the story is about how dangerous it is to give over the decisions of your life and death over to others – particularly when politics are involved. In my story, a character comes to deeply regret signing a living will.
Some people read the story to mean that I am against living wills or death with dignity. Not so.
For instance, I am watching the Terri Shiavo case, and thinking that if I were in her position, I’d want to find somewhere else to be other than trapped in the body that is frankly not viable, and has every indication that it never will be.
Now the congress has passed a law that says that the court has a right to make a decision in the Terri Shiavo case. Presumably, the court will decide to order the re-insertion of her feeding tube.
Why? In the name of her “right to life”.
Let’s get this straight, people. Here we have a woman, a husband, and a family that has been through something that nobody wants to be involved with; something none of us can imagine being involved with.
I watched my husband’s family suffer for years with his grandmother in a similar “persistent vegetative state”. I went and visited that poor woman in the nursing home on numerous occasions. She lived that way for 13 years. For thirteen years, her husband never stopped caring for her lovingly. For thirteen years he never gave up hope. For thirteen years he lived in a constant state of suspended animation.
In their case, the whole family was behind his decision. I don’t know if they agreed with it; but they were behind it, and they all pulled together to make the best of it. They did what they thought was right, and that’s what counts because frankly, they were in a situation where nothing you do is going to be “right“. There are no objective measures by which we can set up tests and procedures to ensure a correct outcome in individual cases, no matter how similar.
There IS no right decision in situations like these. There are only personal decisions; family decisions; decisions of love.
The only reason that we are watching as a congress and the courts make decisions that they are not qualified (on any level) to make is because Terri’s husband and family disagree on what the best horribly wrong decision is. We have a husband who wants to let her go, who’s love and care include her right to dignity and an end to whatever unexpressed suffering she might be enduring. We also have a family who want to give her every chance to get any small morsel of life out of whatever remains of her ability to do so, however meager that might be. A family who can’t let go of hope.
The fact that they cannot reconcile to each other would be unfortunate in any case, but it is made positively tragic that a passel of predatory, self-serving politicos has violated this private tragedy for political and ideological gain.
Congressmen and judges have no place in this decision. They should stay out of it. I don’t blame the family of Terri Shiavo. They are doing whatever they can to get the results that they think is right for them and their loved one. But I expect more from our government. They should have declined to let things go this far. I blame all those protestors, too. To them I say; it’s not up to you. It’s none of your business. It’s not your decision. Go home and take care of your uninjured, living relatives. Love them and be with them, and leave these poor people alone. If you want to help Terri Shiavo’s family, bring them a casserole and tell them you are praying for them and LEAVE. Ditto if you want to help her husband.
In any case, I really think that whether her right to life or death with dignity is upheld, Terri Schiavo and her life as been robbed of any remaining dignity by this public circus. Both sides are mercilessly and cynically using a private tragedy to advance their public agendas, and they should be ashamed of themselves.
And just for the record, if there is ever a situation where I am injured and there is a preponderance of evidence that I will never be able to achieve some level of higher brain function, I want my husband to have the right to decide what the doctors do. I have total trust in his love, his judgment and his intuition. If he really believes that it is best for me to be let go, I want him to let me go. Also, I want to be an organ donor. Anything they can use (yeah, I know, my lungs and liver are probably useless). Cut me up, parcel me out, I don’t need any of it anymore. Take what you can to give someone else the quality of life I can never have anymore, and burn the rest. As in cremation. I don’t want to take up any space on this planet that might be useful for other purposes. Any space people might keep for me in their hearts would be much more useful.