Friday, March 25, 2005

 

A Civil Rights Question That Needs to Be Answered

David Limbaugh asks:
Should we dishonor a person's will to live, even if she doesn't have any more brainpower than a severely retarded person, solely because she issued a previous directive to the contrary when she had greater capacity?

If so, aren't we saying, in effect, that a mentally handicapped person's life is less valuable, less precious than that of a person with full mental capacities?


It does lead to the next question: Does a person with a mental handicap have fewer rights under the law that a person of sound mind? There was one case where the person handicapped by a stroke, asked to drink and eat, but later the judge ruled she wasn't in her right mind, and therefore gave orders to continue with the dehydration (although she died I believe before this could be carried out.)

Can we honestly say that the brain damaged or severely mentally handicapped have full protection of their rights if we refuse to clarify this?

Don't think this can't happen. Read this horrific story by Wesley J. Smith:


The worst of these cases of which I am aware is the tragic dehydration of Marjorie Nighbert. Marjorie was a successful businesswoman until a stroke left her disabled. She was unable to swallow safely, but not terminally ill. She was moved from Alabama to a nursing home in Florida where she would receive rehabilitation to help her relearn how to chew and swallow without danger of aspiration. A feeding tube was inserted to ensure that she was properly nourished during her recovery.

Marjorie had once told her brother Maynard that she didn’t want a feeding tube if she were terminally ill. Despite the fact that she was not dying, Maynard believed that she had meant that she would rather die by dehydration than live the rest of her life using a feeding tube. Accordingly, he ordered all of Marjorie’s nourishment stopped.

As she was slowly dehydrating to death, Marjorie began to beg the staff for food and water. Distraught nurses and staff members, not knowing what else to do, surreptitiously snuck her small amounts. One staffer—who was later fired for the deed—blew the whistle, leading to a hurried court investigation and a temporary restraining order requiring that Marjorie receive nourishment.

Circuit Court Judge Jere Tolton appointed attorney William F. Stone to represent Marjorie and gave him twenty-four hours to determine whether she was competent to rescind the general power of attorney she had given to Maynard before her stroke. After the rushed investigation, Stone was forced to report that Marjorie was not competent at that time. (She had, after all, been intentionally malnourished for several weeks.) Stone particularly noted that he had been unable to determine whether she had been competent at the time the dehydration commenced.

With Stone’s report in hand, Judge Tolton ruled that the dehydration should be completed! Before an appalled Stone could appeal, Marjorie died on April 6, 1995.

Comments:
This is definitely the fundamental question to be asked. It scares me. It feels like something that would happen under a Nazi regime.
 
I agree. I made a similar point on my site the other day. I don't think anyone has considered how Terri would feel if she was able to tell us. No one deserves to be forced to live such a miserable existence.
 
It did happen under the Nazi regime - thats how he started out
 
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