Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ya Just Never Know

I had heard of this story on the radio and was glad to see it on Yahoo. Now I present it here for those who might not have seen it. For all those who whined about those who chose to interfere in the Terry Shiavo case, you know, those who thought preserving a woman's life over starving her to death was a good thing, they might want to keep in mind the fact that when the end comes isn't up to us. How wonderful for this family that it wasn't this young man's time. Just think if they had rushed their decision to harvest his organs! One less day of waiting and hoping, one less hour, and this happy ending would never have occurred. God Bless them.


Doc said...

A miraculous and fascinating story, no doubt. The Terry Schiavo case should not be a question of holding on to hope against hope for the possibility of a miracle (or a serious misdiagnosis!). To justify Shiavo's prolongation with an individual case like this, makes for good press, and a rationalization for keeping all people alive as long as medically possible, in spite of any odds. Rather, the Schiavo case is a debate on personal choice regarding medical treatments, and who decides as a surrogate when no clear party is identified.
From a strict medical standpoint, there is very little chance of survival after one month of being in a "persistent vegetative state."
And even less likely to have a high quality of life (as such things may be measured.) For some, that is not a desirable position, and their wishes to have termination, rather than the ongoing torture (as some would see it)of life support and trauma to themselves and family, should be respected.
When the end comes may not be "up to us," but I sure have a living will, and I hope you do to.

Marshall Art said...

I understand your position. But I'm not of the opinion that a medical degree brings with it an enhanced state of omniscience. Common are the tales of those given a short time to live living long lives.

I also have a difficult time with those who feel that their ideas of quality of life should in any way be imposed upon another. I may now feel that living with no legs is not a life worth living, only to find that I feel differently once the legs are gone. For those that feel the state in which Schiavo found herself is one where there is no true self-awareness, I find it curious that they should then be concerned with her remaining alive, as if she suffers if she has no real consciousness, that her looking around is not really looking or seeing, that she never is really "there". Her parents and siblings were prepared to care for her nonetheless.

Schiavo's alleged request was not recorded. That she ever said it at all, much less said it seriously and not in passing, is in question and considering her husband didn't wait for her to die to take up with another woman and even have kids with her makes any such story suspect. That was the jist of that particular case and as such, Mr. Schiavo's handling of the case, together with the Terry's family so eager to take responsibility for her, makes the outcome abhorent to anyone with a soul. I don't think any but the strictest anal retentive Roman Catholic would have found fault in Mr. Schiavo had he simply had the marriage annulled and went his merry way. Instead, they allowed her to be starved to death. Mr. Schiavo's claim regarding her wishes is just to damned convenient considering his new relationship. I still don't buy it.

You close your comment with the one thing with which it is impossible to disagree. Get a living will.

Doc said...

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I personally feel that Mr. Schiavo was acting out of self-serving convenience rather than in Terry's interest. If I had to guess, I think that the only person that knew Terry's wishes was not able to tell anyone.
In my own work (with brain injured, developmentally delayed, neurologically impaired and demented persons), "quality of life" is a very fluid, and humbling concept.
As a (less than omniscient) physician, I believe that healthcare providers have a primary responsibility to provide support, expertise and choices to their patients; nothing more or less. No degree provides any encompassing ability to limn the unknown wishes of a comatose patient, and thus the dilemma. If we only view the few miracles of survival without the balance of the alternatives, and a person's right to request or refuse treatment, then I think we miss the whole messy picture.

Gabrielle said...

We seem to be in agreement here afterall. "Quality of life", I would say, is in the eyes of the one living that life first and foremost. I must say, I've met a few who really have little about which to complain decry the quality of their own lives. Just heard of one today in church during a period when those who choose to can ask for prayers for a joy or concern in their lives. One spoke of a friend who just blew his own brains out. He obviously was distressed about the quality of his own life. But on the other hand, we constantly here of those who have lost limbs, or the use of them, and have remained steadfast in their desire to enjoy life as best they can.

When someone cannot speak for themselves, and they've left behind no legal directions for how others should proceed on their behalf, it behooves us to assume life is still desired by that person. And in cases like the Schiavo case, where family members were eager, much less willing, to provide care, why how can anyone argue that life should be preserved?

My father-in-law suffered from ALS for an extraordinary period of time. It was said that he lasted far longer than average. At some point he was no longer willing to press on, nor was he willing to continue to burden his family. He requested to disconnect the machines that aided his existence to let the chips fall where they might. I don't see this as immoral as in a suicide, since he was willing to continue on if it was to be. But without the macines, it wasn't. But this is a far cry from disconnecting feeding tubes. One is prolonging life and the other really isn't.

Marshall Art said...

Seems my daughter was using the computer. That last comment was me.