has been full of the ongoing news about the 'right to life' case
of Terri Schiavo in the United States, a woman who has been the
subject of many years worth of legal battles surrounding her right
to live or die after an accident left her in a persistent vegetative
state. The case has of
course sparked many discussions around the world as people debate
the moral issues of the situation, and on a personal level it has
once again raised questions in my own mind about the questions
of life and death.
After my Granddad died in January, as you might expect, I pondered the subject
of death for a while. Since then, visiting my Grandmother in hospital as her
health declines, I have again wondered about the relationship between life
and death and how the line between the two seems to have become smudged with
the 'advancements' of modern medicine and medical technology.
When I was a kid my Auntie Lou died of "old age". I wasn't really affected. She
was my great Grandmother and I only knew her as the funny smelling old lady who
lived in London and who talked to the news readers on TV. I don't even remember
the time she died, but I do know that her death certificate puts the cause of
death as 'old age.' However, today Doctors can't dismiss a death as being purely
a symptom of 'old age' there has to be a medical reason. So she would have been
carted off to hospital and very probably administered life saving measures and
medicines to keep her ticker ticking. This is all well and good of course, but
at what point do we accept that life does of course come to an end. At what point
should medical science step aside and let death take us or the people we love?
Visiting my Grandmother, 'Yogi', always leaves me feeling a little sad because she isn't the lady I remember. The lady who had a sweet tooth and was always full of chatter and love. Today she lives her life attached to machines that feed her pure Oxygen and fluids. She is weak and unable to completely eat a 'proper' meal, so most of the time she drinks energy drinks that look more like an unpleasant smoothie. And all day long she waits for my Mom or my Uncle to visit her. She sits there staring out of the window, or watching tiresome daytime TV.
The hospital she is in is nice enough, the staff are friendly and the facility
seems fine. But it feels like deaths waiting room, a place where life has already
come to an end and is now just a word rather than a state of being. 'Yogi'
has said on many occasions now that she's "ready to go" and join Granddad again,
but my Uncle Paul wants the hospital to administer 'life saving measures' should
she become desperately ill. It's his mother of course, and I completely understand
that he doesn't want to lose her.
I find myself thinking that should I ever get to that age I don't think I would be content to spend the final years of my life hooked up to machines and watching the clouds pass in the window next to my hospital bed. Like anyone I want to live a full life right to the end so at what point should one step aside and let nature take it's course?
Terri was kept alive by machines, machines that weren't around once. In previous years she would have died shortly after the fall that left her in a persistent vegetative state. While my Christian friends argue that it's 'playing God' to switch off her feed tube, I retort by suggesting that it was 'playing God' to intervene in the first place.
One day we'll find a cure for cancer, a cure indeed for many of the diseases that take us to the next place after here. So I am left wondering; at what point should medical science draw the line between prolonging life and prolonging death?
--- Article Notes ---
I decided not to publish this as a finished
'meanwhile' because it just didn't feel like one that should go
on the main list of articles. It's a little more personal than
that. Yogi, the family nickname for my grandmother, made a slow
recovery and was eventually released from hospital. The subject
remains one which I would like to write about, so doubtlessly I'll
come back to this article in future and maybe create something