Friday, March 25, 2005

Wow. many of your comments are amazing. You folks are living every day what I write about. And it's clear that these situations are often so complex that it is hard to be black and white about things.

The story I'm writing about for Sunday is really whether artificial nutrition and hydration is accepted as a medical treatment, like any other medical treatment, or is it something different? And is there a struggle between people who believe in protecting life at all costs -- the sanctity of life -- and those who believe that autonomy is most important, that the ability to decide which treatments I want and don't want at the end of life is paramount. These are thorny issues. Wish me luck!

Archman, my heart goes out to you. I've spent a lot of time as a reporter in the ICU and in nursing homes writing about people at the end of life. it is a jarring thing. I am often amazed at the courage of people and compassion, but I'm also still surprised at how people often don't really understand what is happening, what doctors are telling them. The language is all so foreign to people. I think when all the parties get together in a family meeting, things often become clearer and get resolved. Thanks for sharing.... Read archman's comments: http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=11674537&postID=111169441869575865.

18 Comments:

Blogger momof22 said...

I will look forward to your article on Sunday - and I do wish you luck! A couple of additional comments . . . . You wrote:

The story I'm writing about for Sunday is really whether artificial nutrition and hydration is accepted as a medical treatment, like any other medical treatment, or is it something different?

Much of what I wrote earlier this morning addresses this issue. It is much more complex. Sometimes nutrition and hydration is just that, no different than giving an infant formula from a bottle or spoon-feeding a person with two broken arms! Other times, their are multiple complexities, and the nutrition and hydration itself becomes part of the medical treatment, as in the case of our son that I described. Which is why these are decisions for individuals, their loved ones and medical providers together with their spiritual leaders rather than one-size-fits-all solutions handed down by courts and Congress.

You also wrote: And is there a struggle between people who believe in protecting life at all costs -- the sanctity of life -- and those who believe that autonomy is most important, that the ability to decide which treatments I want and don't want at the end of life is paramount.

Here is where the information I wrote about at the end of my last post - regarding the hypocrisy in the intense efforts to save Terri Schiavo by the very same people slashing funding for Medicaid, refusing to vote on the Family Opportunity Act, denouncing medical malpractice suits, etc. comes in. We may not have the resources to "protect life at all costs" in our country, but if that is the case, the protocols, policies and procedures we design should apply to all, not merely to the poor.

We should not have a government that tries to go AGAINST the wishes of a legal guardian to prolong life in one case (Schiavo) while at the very same time also going AGAINST the wishes of the legal guardian in another case (Hudson) just to save money. We need consistency, or at least the best approximation of consistency that we can arrive at.

Although I truly believe in the "sanctity of life" - I also believe these are personal decisions and the autonomy of the individual is tantamount.

I also believe we need a consistent ethic of life, which means addressing all the issues from access to medical care, to the Death Penalty, to alleviating or eliminating the situations that often lead to these life or death decisions - be it abortion, or euthanasia or anything in the life-spectrum in between. For some excellent material on this topic of a consistent ethic of life, see the article Pro-life? Look at the fruits
by Dr. Glen Harold Stassen http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=sojomail.display&issue=041013#5
also, Sojo.net, particularly the June 2004 issue which included this article:
http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=magazine.article&issue=soj0406&article=040610

and finally, An open letter to Chuck Colson
by Jim Wallis, http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=sojomail.display&issue=050224#3

You are right - these are indeed thorny issues.

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