Wednesday, November 01, 2006

sacred life - part 2

Wednesday, November 01, 2006
still contemplating life. this time, though, its end. i'm thinking of issues that pressed themselves into my frail and weak soul. end-of-life issues. euthanasia. life support. resuscitation. futility of treatment. i've faced this stuff. in my career as a caregiver. and, now that i have achieved a safe distance from that role, i see things differently. and, i'm inclined to think it hinges upon the way i see suffering. read on. it will become clear. i hope.

terry schiavo. tracy latimer. do you remember these stories? different circumstances. different people. yet, the same issue at play in both cases - the value and definition of life. so ... know i ask. does cognition constitute life? does cognition serve as a criteria upon which medical treatment decisions get made? do only we only allow life for those individual with physical and cognitive capacity to contribute to society? who are we to decide such? to decide when death should visit? to decide when life should end?

the soul - its the spark of g-d. the breath of g-d, that gives us life, existence. its not ours to destroy. its not ours to create. its ours to honour. and love. in the face of disease. in the face of suffering. in the face of physical pain. in the face of emotional pain. in the face of psychic pain. does suffering have a purpose? i believe it does. and so ... it seems selfish, vain, short-sighted to end a life with a view to ending suffering. does death - a la assisted suicide - really end suffering? i don't believe it does. it merely makes it easier for those of us who remain standing.

i sympathize with michael schiavo. and with robert latimer. but ... i cannot condone the actions they took. it seems selfish, vain. it dishonours the sanctity of life. such actions put our own selfish fears and despair ahead of g-d. they reflect a lack of trust. in g-d. in ourselves. while i appreciate the cruel irony of removing a feeding tube from a woman who, indirectly, sustained brain as a result of an eating disorder, i cannot agree with the action taken. instead, i just think it underscores the importance of making treatment decisions with complete information, based upon reality, and not hope. [of course, hindsight is 20/20]. it also underscores the importance of each and every one of us making our wishes known to our loved ones - in writing. what treatment would we want to undergo? and what would we want to refuse? one of my assigments in nursing school involved writing my own living will. it had to be specific. and articulate. and it opened my eyes to a world i had never before entered.

with respect to the latimer case. i sympathize. i have felt the crushing despair of having a child whose care needs i cannot meet. of having a child who lacks the cognitive capacity to return my love. its worse than death, i believe. for, having a child like this involves loss of the child on so many levels. and never-ending, at that. still. it never, ever occured to us to kill our child, to take his life. i could not imagine snuffing out such a beautiful, angelic spirit. in fact, i am inclined to believe that 'special children' possess a special sort of divinity. their spirit - contains such frail and divine beauty. anyone who has worked with these kids will know what i mean.

and so ... i conclude that what the latimers did they did out of fear, out of despair, out of selfishness. do we ever want to destroy the thing we love the most? no. and that makes me think about a reminder that mayden, dearest provided us in her blog, today. yes, indeed. the difficulty in loving lies in knowing that the needs of your loved one takes precedence over your own.

image - a collage by moi!


Mayden' s Voyage said...

I think that one of the problems we face now in society is the ability to prolong life like never before.
Case after case like the 2 you cited would have resulted in death much sooner if not for some extraodinary medical intervention - nature no longer has the final say.
(oh- and look at poor Ariel Sharon-so sad!)
The burden of caring for ones so disabled is enormous- and not possible just 100 years ago.

I continually swing back and forth between marveling at modern medicine, and being horrified by it. My sister is a Peds ICU nurse at UNC, she has a tough job...caring for those tiny little ones, hooked up to machines- babies that would have died within hours or minutes stuggle for much longer.
The pay off, of course, is that some of these kids survive- but not all.
Friend, this is a hard one. And I agree with you, I do think we "end suffering" for the sake of the living-
I need to make sure my living will is in order~
Profound thughts here- as always :)

mantissa said...

i agree, mayden - with medical interventions and extension of life at all cost. i have this debate with my devoutly catholic mother, who believes in anything, any measure, that extends the length of life. it occurs to me that certain extraordinary measures (ariel sharon - yes sad indeed and awful!) may be indeed defying nature - making ourselves g-ds? when g-d is ready to take a soul back to himself, it is not for us to question or prolong life. just as it is not for us to end life - bring death sooner than g-d intends.

i worked as a nurses aid in PICU and also NICU - ughhh ... sooo much ethical dilemma there. its why i chose to steer clear of that. however, when one cares for the elderly the dying and the cancer-stricken, one faces a lot of things that make one question ... everything.

you know something? i felt the presence of g-d ... of something incredibly divine ... at each and every death i witnessed. this extraordinary divine feeling surrounded the room - it touched me more that watching births ever did.

i guess i am saying that death is a part of life ... and g-d is ther too. and we should not deny its presence.

it looks like the arm is not broken - no phone call from the radiologist (*whew*) ... but i suspect a tore a tendon away from the bone - near the elbow joint.

oh ... i feel sort of feeble ... but i'll live.

mantissa said...

urg ... i meant to edit the comment ... not publish.

yeah - i know profound here. i need to lighten up here maybe. when i get to vancouver i will posts my interpretation of the bus trip from here to there. it will be a break from the serious posts.

seriously, too ... i want to write about injured soldiers.

ok ... that's it. my arm hurts. i gotta stop or M. will tie me up ... *grin*