Saturday, March 26, 2005

In the tomb

I want to say something positive about life, the universe, and all that, but it's hard today.

The Terri Schiavo thing has me bugged. I wouldn't want to live like she's been living, but then, I wouldn't want to be living if I was developmentally disabled, or crippled, or paralyzed, or for that matter, unhappily married. But if I become miserably ill because of any of those reasons, does that mean I want to be starved to death? Not likely. My brain and my gut are probably the last to give up.

People who are depressed frequently don't want to go on, but don't feel a need to commit suicide. They are bound to die (one day) and so, if they can't feel they can go on to lead a normal life, should we lock them in a room without food and water?

No, of course not, we try to get them help so that they can at least function, if not function normally. Who of us has never seen someone who has been injured, or is so ill from genetic disorders or disease, that they needed medical assistance to live?

My father's Aunt Maud was born severely disabled. She never crawled, walked, talked, or used her hands for anything but random gestures. We were taught to say "Hello" to her, but she didn't even focus her eyes on us. To her caretakers, she responded a little, turning her head to look at them. She didn't even cry out loud, just grimaced when she was discomfited. Maud could not feed herself, nor manipulate anything with her hands.

She was cared for by her sisters until she died.

If she was Terri Schiavo, she would have been written off as a loss and left to lie in her bed and die. I've visited and Terri has more cognizance than Maud ever did. But Maud's care was overseen by people who felt a sense of responsibility about her life. Terri is just a corpse to her guardian, not a being who smiles at attention, looks around her, expresses unhappiness when her visitors leave her alone.

The law prosecutes women who leave their newborn offspring to die in a garbage can; those infants can't feed themselves, or eat solid food, or communicate except by a cry of discomfort (and they don't cry if they're starving) -- if the mothers are criminal in their neglect of creatures that MIGHT survive and respond to nurturing, why is is okay to withdraw care of a creature who has been sentient, and who DOES respond to care, even if in a limited form?

Good God, even the dog pound doesn't starve puppies to death.

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