Monday, March 28, 2005

People can be so cruel...

And it's not that I necessarily believe that they mean to be, just that they judge other people before understanding what life is like for them. Just because someone leads a life that is less than their own perceived perfect quality of life, they deem it worthless (or worse decide that it should be ended). I further understand that in order to deal with these "conclusions" these people must also be blind to certain truths, because without their denial as protection they couldn't face themselves. For example, if they were to keep an open mind they might start to consider that maybe the person that Terri Schiavo is now is atleast a moderatly happy one, someone capable of enjoying a life they might not understand, and then how could they justify standing by while that life is ended, and ended in such a painfully drawn out manner - one they wouldn't even allow a serial baby rapist to endure.

Whilst we were in Calgary I was touched by the story of a little girl who lives there - a beautiful child really, a girl who will never know that such evils exists in a harsh world (we don't kill our severly disabled people in Canada), a girl who is loved - and in return loves those around her.

Her name is Eilish Wheatley, and she is 5 years old. Like Terri Schiavo, little Eilish is fed through a tube in her stomach, and like Schiavo her cerebral cortex does not function. She can't walk, but gets around her world via wheel chair (Schiavos wheelchair was taken away from her 7 years ago when her husband forbade her from leaving the hospice). She laughs when her Mom picks her up and cries when the dentist cleans her teeth.

Eilish's Mom Tricia Wheatley is angry and concerned at the Terri Schiavo case, especially that something like a feeding tube can be considered "life support".

"Life support is being ventilated with a tube to assist you to breathe when your body can't breathe on its own or having a machine keep your heart pumping, it's not feeding someone," Wheatley said, adding "I fear it is open season on the profoundly disabled."

But one of her quotes really hit home for me:

"Eilish may never walk or talk, but she does experience joy, happiness and sadness. People may not want to trade places with Eilish or Terri Schiavo, but that doesn't mean their lives aren't worth living and loving."

Courts have repeatedly accepted testimony from Michael Schiavo that Schiavo is in a "persistent vegetative state" and that she would not have wanted to be kept alive artificially.

First, PVS is the same as brain death (worse than in a coma), and people don't laugh and cry and sit up and get out of bed when they are brain dead. Also worth noting is that the medical community does not really know why a brain in this state can fix itself - like in Kate Adamson's case - or what the person knows or feels while in this state. Second, being fed is NOT being kept alive artifically as many of us would consider it when we would make similiar statements. Michael Schiavo's motives in this are obviously suspect and his claims that Schiavo said this came years after he told a court he wanted to help make his wife's life better (and after he had moved in with his mistress and sent Schaivo to a home). Third, no new evidence has even been allowed, no new tests or treatments since her rehabilitation was cut off (which, btw, doctors don't attempt to rehabilitate a brain dead person) despite the fact that medical knowledge of this situation has evolved by light years in the past ten years. Further, the courts have decided on sworn testimony already submitted even though there is much disagreement in the medical community about Schiavo's state and the american Congress directed the federal courts to look at the case from the very begining with no old evidence considered. Fourth, Schiavo was only married a couple of short years and yet this has given such complete power to her unfaithful husband that it is scary, complete enough that he is able to forbid her being fed by mouth (which nurses were fired for doing), and keep her on a feeding tube she didn't need so that he could make the argument she should die.

And lastly, Terri Schiavo is dying, but not from natural causes or even as a result of being terminally ill, but because a legal system has failed her. It pains me to imagine how much longer this ordeal might last for her. As my family bands together to wait for the death of one of our own loved ones, the fourth in the past year, I am painfully aware of the difference between life and death, and between living and dying, and of the sacred balance of trust that hangs between them.

2 comments:

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