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Friday, September 22, 2017

SALLY MORRIS: SHOULD WE AGREE TO STARVE THE INFIRM?

JIM’S TRUCKS

 

 

In a recent decision, a British judge has ruled that not only is it permissible to withdraw nutrition and hydration from a 50-year-old patient in a "vegetative state", but that it should have been done without recourse to a court order. http://www.lifenews.com/2017/09/21/court-rules-doctors-can-starve-disabled-patients-to-death-without-a-court-order/

This should send a chill down the spine of not only the right-to-life activists, but to us all. This court and the care providers and family's decision to end someone's life is a harbinger of dangers of the cavalier attitude towards life fostered by acceptance of abortion. Many, including myself, have argued that abortion is only one facet of this culture of death. It can be applied as easily – and perhaps more easily – to the disabled, the infirm, the elderly or anyone who is, to use the words of Ezekiel Emmanuel, a "useless eater".

In recent months, the plight of the infant Charlie Gard and his parents has revived the images of the planned death of Terri Shiavo by her adulterous and murderous husband, despite efforts of her family to protect her. None of us should feel safe, because even if our families try to intervene, as did the parents of Charlie Gard, the State asserts a "higher" authority in the name of the "people".

As mortals, even doctors do not really know what the chances of recovery are for comatose patients. Perhaps they honestly believe that they are doing the "right thing". But, on the other hand, perhaps the right thing is irrelevant if a hospital bed is needed. Nursing homes are well-known for abuse of patients once their assets have been transferred and they are left on the home's mercy. After all, a bed is a bed and money makes the world go 'round, right?

Just to relay a personal story here. My uncle is now 94. A widower, he lives alone and cares for himself. He is very capable, extremely intelligent and quite physically fit – for a 75-year-old, that is, not for his 94 years. A year ago, on the day before Labor Day, he slipped while trying to swat a wasp in his home and hit his head on concrete. He suffered a concussion. While under observation in the hospital, he developed bleeding in his brain. He underwent surgery to stop this bleeding. He was doing well and then he went into a coma. For several days he was unconscious. His family, all very close, were at his bedside, trying to hope he would recover. The major city in which he was hospitalized is not known for great healthcare, so I checked on the cost and availability of an emergency medical flight from there to Rochester. I ascertained the cost and availability and needed only for arrangements to be made locally at the hospital for his transfer to the Mayo Clinic, St. Mary's. I spoke with his exhausted daughter late on a Wednesday night. She said there would be a meeting the following morning and plans were to be made for withdrawing life support on Friday morning, so everyone could "say goodbye" as it were.

I told her my mother and I would defray the financial part if she could do the paperwork. He could be transferred from "bed to bed" with no interruption of care. She said she would see what they could do. The following morning, my cousin went to her dreaded hospital meeting and a doctor came running up to her, saying, "Your dad is awake! He is aware of where he is and who everyone is. He is not sure how he got hurt, though."

My uncle spent several months in that hospital and in a nursing home recovering from this injury, the surgery and not one, but four bouts of "C-def" infection. He left the hospital at the end of February just before his 94th birthday. He is now no longer on a feeding tube (sent home with him), and is able to swallow and again take care of himself. He still lives in his own house. Last April I phoned him. He didn't answer but called me back and apologized for missing the call, as he was out on his bicycle. Due to vision issues, he prefers to bike in the mornings when traffic is lighter. It has been over a year now since he was declared unviable by his doctors. They had told us he would be a "vegetable" should he survive. I have avoided talking politics with him as we tend to disagree and I don't want to argue but I have asked his advice on the purchase of a car and gotten a detailed and knowledgeable answer. He is completely rational and pretty much his old, fun-loving, sharp-witted self.

He had the advantage of a family that wouldn't give up but also a lot of luck, returning to consciousness when he did, before it was "too late". We don't know if we would have had the same problem Charlie Gard's parents had.

The bottom line is that life is too precious to entrust to another entity. If we permit the mutilation and murder of unborn children, the elderly, infirm, disabled, mentally challenged or simply homeless, will eventually be considered no longer "viable". Many pro-life advocates have pointed this out. But, as so often, England is leading the way. The woman in this case might have what is considered an incurable condition, but this should in no way allow others to take her life. We have seen great evil come of this assumption. Hitler (yeah, I said it and I know it's not allowed) made use of this doctrine, Stalin employed it. Look around you. Are there people who don't "measure up" to "normal"? Physically or mentally disabled? Just not wanted? Ezekiel Emmanuel has an answer to this, and so does this British Court and Mr. Justice Jackson.

We need to reject the culture of death. We must actively work to end abortion and say no to euthanasia or whatever you want to call removal of hydration and nutrition and air from an innocent human being. We are not God. We do not have a right to arbitrarily determine that a life is not "viable" or worth saving or worth living. The right-to-life lobby has rightly concentrated on abortion. It is time now to expand that view to include all forms of abuse of life at all ages.

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