Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Worthwhile purusal

Joel has an interesting post here, discussing where to draw the line in deciding how strenuous an intervention should be made to preseve the life of a child born with disabilities. My most recent response, which I'm posting here for the double reason that I have little else to say at present and that I want to preserve it here as well, is as follows. I've disabled comments on this post, since Joel kicked off this discussion, I'd like to continue it there.

Drawing that line is complicated. I think, in general terms, that if the person in question (for except in some very, very extreme cases, I think all these children are persons) will be able to live with minimal to moderate assistance, or even if there is a question of them being able to live with minimal to moderate assistance, then all reasonable measures to sustain their lives should be taken. If, and only if, there is no question that the person involved will require exceptional measures to sustain their life for the entire duration thereof, I would have very little problem not taking those exceptional measures at the start. I do not think, with this Anglican declation (as far as I can tell) that the ability of the parents to care for the child should affect the decision. Isn't it the role of the Church, from Acts onwards, to assist those in such straits?

I think the right decsion was made in the Terry Schiavo case, for the record. The clip that got so much air time, of her apparently responding to her mother, was just that, a clip, not more than a few seconds long, taken from over 4 hours of video. In that amount of time, any random action could be taken as proof of ability to communicate. She had been in that same state for years. I think her husband's incription on her tombstone said it best: "departed this earth 1990, at peace 2005."

An overarching theme in medicine, reflected from our culture today, is the worship of life, specifically long life. There is, in medicine at least, some reaction against that lately, and like most things, it can be taken too far. But I think a healthy appraisal of the value of a life, and respect for its owner's wishes, where possible, is necessary. Some people want to be kept alive at all costs, others don't want anything done. When the person can't communicate, as in Schiavo or a child, a balance must be found. Detractors might say we don't have the right to "play god" but that's an overly simplistic view. In the hospital we're working against Genesis 3 as a way of life. Sometimes I think we need to realize that in the end, the curse is still in place.

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