THE INEVITABLE BIG TOPIC OF THE DAY POST
They say opinions are like assholes; everybody’s got one. Well, a lot of assholes are weighing in on the Terry Schiavo case. I’m not going to claim to know what a vegetative woman’s wishes are, but there’s another issue here that nobody seems to be talking about, which I think is just as important. In the ever-more-unlikely event that Terry Schiavo’s husband is allowed to let her die, is denying her whatever flavorless mush they’ve been force-feeding her for fifteen years and letting her starve to death over the course of two agonizing weeks really the most humane way to go about it?
When my father’s cancer was in its final stages, he was in bad shape. He couldn’t speak, respond, take care of himself, roll over in bed, even open his eyes. The only thing he could do was breathe on his own — barely. And that was enough to keep him alive. He had been steadily deteriorating for over a year, and there was no hope he would recover. My stepmom took him out of the hospital so he could die at home, because that was the humane thing to do. One day, I got a call telling me I needed to come back to New Jersey to see him — now. This was it.
Only it wasn’t it. He wasn’t eating anymore, and my stepmom had stopped trying to feed him. So the end was near, but no one knew how near. By that time, he barely resembled my father anymore, and his breathing became more and more labored as his lungs filled with fluid.
People kept saying that he wasn’t in any pain, and given that none of them had medical degrees, it started to sound more like they were trying to convince themselves than that they were repeating something a doctor had said. He sure sounded like he was in pain. Plus, he hadn’t gotten up from his bed in weeks, so he couldn’t have been very comfortable. We knew he was going to die — and soon. We weren’t expecting any more of his jokes or a smile or even any eye contact from him, and we had no idea whether he could even hear us or if he knew we were standing next to him, holding his hand. All we were doing was waiting out the inevitable.
I know that this is a very sensitive issue. Any time you threaten someone’s vision of God, emotions are bound to run a little high. Well, as I see it, God, if there is one, seems perfectly willing to let us sort these things out for ourselves. And if there is some Judgment awaiting us, I’d be ready to defend doing anything I could to ease the suffering of a loved one. Morality, as I see it, doesn’t come from listening to religious leaders or politicians or hordes of screaming protesters on either side of an issue. It’s being able to tune all those people out and just do what you know is right. By that definition, standing by and watching my father suffer was probably the most immoral thing I’ve ever done.
It’s sad that a movie about euthanasia can win Best Picture (sorry, time’s up; I’m spoiling it), but we still can’t have a reasoned debate on the subject. Drew told me this morning that he didn’t ever want to live like Terry Schiavo, and if it ever comes down to it, he won’t have to. It’s just sad that Terry Schiavo has to live that way, and that her fate isn’t going to be determined by the people who love her but by a bunch of politicians using her as a political football. She’s going to die someday, but I’m sure that the debate about how it should’ve happened never will.