Thursday, March 31, 2005

Last Days in March

So Terri Schiavo died. After what, 12 days of starvation and dehydration? What a surprise. "She was going to die, anyway," say the arguments for the removal of the feeding tube. "She would have wanted it this way."

If she was 'going to die anyway', because of her brain injuries, then why did she die of starvation?

I know a man whose wife was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. As she grew more sickly, he felt a need to get on with his life, so he divorced her. He got on with his life, married another woman, and felt happy and whole in his new got-on-with-it life. The sick ex-wife lived as much of her life as she could with supportive friends. I've lost track (through acquaintances) of how she is now. He still prances about town being important, a regular benefactor to the community.

I know another man whose wife fell ill, and she was paralyzed and confined to a bed in a nursing home. After years, he met someone, divorced his paralyzed wife, and married another woman. The second wife treated the paralyzed woman like a sister, made sure the kids visited their real mother regularly, became friends with her.

Tell me, why did Mr. Schiavo not divorce Terri and move on with his life, especially when others were glad to take over her guardianship? Because he considered Matrimony to be a holy vow? Well, then, why would he take on and engender children upon a mistress? No, obviously it wasn't a case of him worrying about the "sin" of divorce. "Sin" in his sexual activity wasn't an issue.

He was willing to spend $400,000 to pull a feeding tube, but not willing to allow her any rehabilitative treatment. He wouldn't let anyone else foot the bill for rehab, either. But if she was just going to die anyhow, what did he care?

Terri left no written directives. She didn't say "Yes, save me, help me, feed me if I can't talk" and she didn't say "Please starve me to death if I can't talk." Her guardian said she would rather starve than live.

I just have to wonder why that man was so possessive of a "persistent vegetative state" that he wouldn't even let her be babied and cared for by people who loved her, and to whom she responded with smiles and grunts.

What about the bulemic teens who would rather starve than live, and end up with intrevenous drips and feeding tubes to keep them alive? Should we let them kill themselves? What about the retarded citizens who can't take care of themselves, should their guardians just assume that they "wouldn't want to live that way" and stop feeding them?

Somehow I don't think it's a "right to die" issue here. I don't know, it's just a suspicion. And in case you think I'm following a party line, I'm not. My father, before his death, was forcibly fed with a feeding tube, even though he knew that his cancer was terminal. He removed the tube from his nose, and when the doctor came to reinsert it, Dad punched him out. They tied him in restraints and reinserted the tube. They should have left him alone.

Mom stood by the doctors, because they told her that he was on the mend, but it was a lie. Cancer had taken him over, bone and tissue, and he knew it. The violent reaction to food being forced into his shut-down system brought on a heart attack, and he died. This was not the same situation that Terri Shiavo was in. She wasn't dying.

My Pope may be dying. He, too, has a feeding tube now. His last great work will be to fight on with his great intellect to the very last end. That's his job, that's everyone's job: to live the best way you can with the health and the circumstances you're given to the last breath. I can understand and agree with not being kept alive by respirators. But food?

It's a tough world to live in, with a lot of nasty choices.

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