Monday, March 21, 2005


Good Question

VATICAN CITY (AP) - The Vatican newspaper on Monday criticized the removal of a feeding tube from a brain-damaged Florida woman, saying nobody can claim the right to decide whether a human being lives or dies.

``Who can, before God and humanity, pretend with impunity to claim such a right?'' L'Osservatore Romano said. ``Who - and on the basis of which criteria - can establish to whom the 'privilege' to live should be given?''

Evidently, in various places of the world, the answer is:

Doctors (Especially, but not only in Denmark)
Next of Kin
Hospital review boards (in Texas once you run out of funds and if the review board thinks your case is hopeless. But at least they give you a chance to find someone to take you in first)
Spouses who live with other partners but still claim enough spousal rights to make these decisions (Florida)

The morality behind all of this is tricky. It makes several assumptions:

1) death is inevitable (sometimes this is a good judgment, like after a massive stroke, sometimes it's playing games with semantics)

2) For a person who does not need a respirator,the only moral way to kill a person is to withhold food and drink and all other life-sustaining treatment. If the person is not brain damaged enough, they will hurt. Not much mercy here. I question the pretense of refusing treatment for someone who cannot talk. And what about the person who changes their mind before death? That has happened too. If they are in hospice, they might not get a chance to leave.

3) death is better than life (this is the trickiest because it is a values judgement that frequently says healthy brain damaged people are better off dead...but it's not a decision you want to make until you are there yourself!) And once you are dead, you are dead. There is no going back.

One thing we have trouble with lately is diffentiating between the handicapped and damaged person, and the person in imminent danger of death because they have reached the end of their lives. We think we don't want to live like that, and we repudiate it and equate it with people dying of alzheimer's, ALS or other horrible disease. And in our fear, we want to get rid of them.

But on the other hand, once you start talking about putting the "useless eaters" down, you are walking a slippery slope away from morality and into playing God. Our track record as a species is not good once we strip away the value of life. We end up with the Killing Fields, the Holocaust, the hacking of people by machete because we don't respect their personhood.

Don't think it can't happen here. There's all those baby boomers who are aging and need to be processed.

How can you say removing the tube is playing god? It seems to me that using machinery to keep someone alive who would naturally be dead is playing god. You also miss the point that this woman can't recover. A good portion of her brain is liquid. That's not a metaphor, the flesh that was her brain now is partially a liquid goo. It would seem to me that if there is a god he as expressed his will. This woman is gone. We're just keeping her human vessel around for no good reason.
The feeding tube is not playing God. A good portion of your brain is liquid goo too apparantly. These liberals...abortion, euthanisia...don't they just kill you? The party of death.
Let me make it clear who I was talking to...Cuevas.
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