Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Things You Shouldn't Write About

I feel compelled to write something about this woman from whom they've removed the feeding tube (I know her name, but I'm not typing it here for fear of fanatics posting annoying things here) but I think it's a bad idea. Why can't I let it go? Why do I feel compelled to comment? Because for the last month-ish it's been one of the top stories. The media feels this is an important issue because they know human drama tied to religion tied to politics makes for good, gut-wrenching, white-knuckle drama -- especially in this case where someone's life is actually on the line. Hell, it's like Survivor and The Real World combined into one power-packed and free bumdle!

It's really kind of sick.

This whole thing should have been handled quietly between the family members, but in this age of info-tainment (by that, I mean the "news") the family members know that their plight makes for good television, so they escalate the conflict in hopes of getting their way.

It's really kind of sick.

My opinion is the unpopular one. But that doesn't really answer the question of which position I take, does it? Both (every?) side is unpopular in this one. If you want her to live you're being impractical and most likely overzealously religious in your reasons for why she should live. If you want that she be allowed to die, then you're being immoral and cruel. Yeah, both positions suck.

Should both positions suck? Yes, they should. She has no chance of recovery and making someone live in a bed with no reasonable ability to communicate, learn, or interact is cruel. In addition is seems opportunistic and petty to hold this person up an example of how all life is precious. While on the other hand it's impossible to know what's going on in the woman's head and it's cruel to starve her to death.

Behind all the political maneuverings somewhere is the real central issue of 'what do we do with people in situations like this?' Is euthanasia acceptable? Is it murder if we kill her by starvation instead of some injection? Is it crueler? How is starving someone not murder? Is killing someone acceptable in some cases?*

Actually, killing by starvation reminds me of the ancient Greek tradition (at least in the myths) or hobbling a baby and leaving it for the elements to kill. Since, after all, it wasn't murder if the kid didn't survive; all the "hobblers" did was injure him. Oedipus, right? Yeah, that was it. So, now we have the modern equivalent. "It's not our fault if she starves to death."

I guess it's a good thing that this is even an issue. It gives people something to think about -- something that's actually meaningful. I know where I stand.

How about you?

*Well, it seems we've already answered this one with a yes in many states, since we do have capital punishment. So, yes, it's okay to kill someone in some instances.


At March 30, 2005 6:54 AM, Blogger Kevin said...

Ah, but its the states that most staunchly uphold capital punishment that most strongly oppose the right to die.

This is the dilemma: they believe that if you're a killer you must be killed (eye for an eye), but that killing an ill person, even at their express request, is the sin of murder.

Frankly it's ridiculous. Either all life is sacred, and we need to stop killing criminals, animals and having wars . . .or it's not and we should kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out.

Now that's mighty extreme, but you get the drift.

Oh, and don't let folks con you into believing that this starvation treatment's as bad as they portay it. Yes, it's horrible, but even vegetative folks are hopped up with narcotics for the duration. Even the lizard part of her brain isn't suffering.

We won't truly be civilized until we can iron out these death issues. Frankly we've got it backwards. Let those who want to die, criminals should be treated differently.

Rather than prisons perhaps an island similar to the Village from the Prisoner. Provide basic infrastructure, but the inhabitants have to make it work.
Hmmm . . . .I feel a post coming on . . .look out Kevwurld, update incoming!

At March 30, 2005 10:31 AM, Anonymous maya said...

And to add a critical point to what Kevin said, those states only want to keep people alive if they have the money to pay for it. Those same states, like Texas, also have laws that public money cannot be used to keep someone on life support. There is no hint of rational thought or consistency in the supposed cult of life. The parents here are concerned more with their feelings than that of their daughter or her wishes, understandable but petty and self-righteous. What we all need to do now is determine our own wishes, write them down and broadcast them to the world. Don't put anyone in this position--no one you love, and especially not the government, should have to decide your right to live or die.

At March 30, 2005 2:04 PM, Blogger Glenn said...

Unfortunately, underlying this case is a whole bunch of stuff about money. As I understand things, when her brain damage occured, there was a legal settlement for more than $700,000. That money is, apparently, only hers. (Apparently, the precedent that has jurisdiction is that money from legal liability settlements is not marital property).

Her husband can spend that money (since he's her guardian) on her behalf. What that's meant is that he's been using it up keeping in her feeding tube. More recently, he's been spending it on lawyers, which can be claimed to be in her interest since it's in support of her purported desire to get off life support.

There's possibly more than $300,000 left. I heard once that she has a life insurance policy as well, which presumably pays out some sum upon her death.

It's a large amount of money, and it colors everything about this case, even though the media doesn't dwell on it. (It's seen as being too cold, I guess.) The husband can't use the money until she dies. The parents can't get the money unless he divorces her and they assume guardianship. The parents can't say "We'll become her guardians, you keep the money." because it's her money, and that isn't using it on her behalf. Hell, it's so much money that we can't even assume that isn't their real reason for pushing so hard on this issue.

It's probably not a stretch to say that the husband would be doing a practical, and possibly moral, disservice to his new "wife" and kids if he simply allowed the money to be squandered keeping this vegetative woman alive for another decade. It's a wasted investment, since at the end of that period, when the money is gone, the tube gets pulled out anyway.

The major reason so many people ask not to be kept alive in this way is to keep the financial burden on their families from bankrupting them. If the woman could in fact speak, would she really want the money that would make her once beloved husband, if not rich, at least relatively well off, keeping her alive in her current state for another 10 years?

As Maya pointed out, once the settlement is gone, the Bushies have shown that they would in fact insist that her feeding tube be removed. It's state law in Texas, enacted on Bush's watch, and medicare policy for the country, enacted as part of Bush's medicare reform.

Money drives the politics here as well. Because the issue has inflamed the right-to-life base, donations to right-wing organizations are flooding in, at a rate that's especially high for a non-election year. That money is doubtlessly measured in millions.

At March 30, 2005 5:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The whole thing sucks.

She should be used for shark bait.

Also I think the poor should be burned for firewood.

--- Conservative political op in madison.

At March 30, 2005 6:48 PM, Blogger Jon said...

And that's why I miss you.


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