Plugging In…To the Euthanasia Issue

Because there is so much discussion surrounding the Schiavo case, I felt that some further clarification of thought would be useful.

I’ve read comments from people I respect, and some from those I am indifferent to, which speak of the “passive euthanasia” or “right to die”, and similar phrases. There are often personal anecdotes of life experiences which explain their reasoning for a conviction or quandary that the discussion of Terri Schiavo is engendering.

The fear of unduly prolonging life is vibrating through many of them. This is a real concern that was last in the public eye in the Karen Quinlan case. There are so many complicating factors since that case. Ethical and economic. We should move cautiously and deliberately forward in forging out our social policies.

I, too, have personal experience with this type of situation, and with my own ambivilance. I feel strongly that what we want to address is medical procedure rights, not a right to die. If people are dying and medical procedures are prolonging that, then the DNR, ‘do not resusitate’, or the waiving of those procedures ought to be in the hands of the patient or their designated proxy.

I don’t think that we should be writing laws that grant the taking of life, for whatever medical reason, to the end that we are institutionalizing euthanasia. That is exactly the type of thing that has led to the Schiavo travesty.

The only thing comparable is criminal execution, which is why it is so horrific to see it used on innocent people. What did Terri do to deserve the deliberate termination of her life in an inhumane way? She survived, but not to the levels of that many in our society have set as acceptable. Many of us are questioning the desiribility of that criteria.

My personal experience was recently, last year, in the exercise of the medical power of attorney for my father. His wish, officially was for DNR, but before my role was activated he had made more than one choice for life prolonging procedures, including help with respiration. My father was one of those individuals who give completely opposing messages. You had to know him well to guess at what his true wishes were- and then it still was a guess.

I personally felt the importance of his life choices at the end included the chance to say goodbyes to those who meant most to him: his brothers and sisters, and his children and grandchildren. All had their opportunity, and it appeared to make a great deal of difference in his facing his end.

The weight of making choices for your loved one when they can no longer make it for themselves is immense. The opinions of doctors are often conflicting. It is hard to know who to listen to. There are factors that institutional medicine deals with that have little to do with comfort or with what is best for the patient. It is difficult to impossible to know when those things are activated in a case. So the best thing, in my personal opinion, is that we stick with patients rights to make choices in procedures, not put power to make the call for life and death into institutional or the courts hands. It is a matter of placing your proxy where you most trust it will abide by your wishes.

In spite of this, we see that Terri’s husband is primary in obstructing her care.

It appears difficult to see how Terri’s ordeal could have been circumvented by reasonably constructed law. The laws we have can only be constructed for reasonable situations, and tests in place for the unreasonable aberrations. As one blogger pointed out, what sane judge allows a husband, who has already moved on with making another family and seems to have no other interest in his wife’s welfare than to inherit her estate, make the life and death request and decision? There should be valid tests in place, to flag and divert that sort of injustice.

Not everyone will get Congress to intervene in their situation. Now is the time to place safeguards for personal rights and delinate some of the boundaries for the medical and judicial profession.