The Latest News Archive 2013
Your Life May Hang in the Balance
Tim Bowers was 32 years old and an active outdoorsman. He was a newlywed and his wife was expecting their first child. Then, one day while deer hunting, Tim fell 16 feet from a tree stand and suffered a severe spine injury. He was paralyzed from the shoulders down. Doctors determined that his C3, C4 and C5 vertebrate had been crushed. Unable to breathe on his own, he was sedated and placed on a ventilator.
His family gathered at his bedside and were understandably overwhelmed by his prognosis. Surgery could fuse his vertebrate, but that would only allow him to sit up. He would never walk and might require a breathing tube for the rest of his life. Then the family had an unlikely request. They asked that Tim be brought out of sedation so that he could make the decision of what to do. The hospital complied. (Keep in mind this was just one day after the accident.) Tim made the decision to decline any life-saving treatment, including the ventilator. He passed away within hours.
The doctors call this a patient’s “self-determination.” I, however, consider it negligence. This young man was in the midst of trauma when asked to make a life-or-death decision. Expert medical ethicist, Art Caplan, concedes that “patients often change their minds after they have had time to meet with spiritual advisers and family.” Unfortunately, in this case we’ll never know if given the time, something could have changed Tim’s mind.
A dear friend of mine knows what it’s like to suffer such a debilitating injury. Joni Eareckson Tada was just 17 years old when she became paralyzed from the shoulders down in a diving accident. She admits that in the early days, she felt anger, depression and wanted to end her own life. It took months before she was finally able to begin to seek God’s will for her life. She shared with me her thoughts about Tim’s situation. “It is so heartbreaking. But to ask a spinal cord injury survivor only hours after his devastating injury if he wants off a ventilator? That’s loading way too much responsibility on an individual who just doesn’t have the psychological, emotional or spiritual wherewithal to grasp the implications. To expect a freshly-traumatized person to make a rational decision about life-as-a-quadriplegic is medical malpractice.”
Some may consider physician-assisted suicide as a merciful act; however the unfortunate reality is that it opens up a slippery slope of what justifies such a death. The country of Belgium is experiencing the ramifications of these types of public policies. It began as euthanasia designated only in cases of consenting adults suffering from severe, untreatable conditions. Over time, it has unmistakably expanded into controversial territory.
Belgium-style euthanasia for organ donation has become increasingly common. For example, donors who died voluntarily, account for over 12% of lung transplants. Euthanasia can be considered for prisoners if they have a terminal illness, have made multiple requests for death and receive the signatures of three physicians. In addition, the mentally ill are at risk. A Belgian woman suffering from chronic depression was euthanized by a lethal injection without contacting any relatives or friends.
Most vulnerable are those with injuries or disabilities who cannot speak for themselves, as in cases like Terri Schiavo. It’s hard to comprehend, but I encourage you to watch the short film, Hungry, which gives a glimpse of what the experience may be like.
None of us wants to imagine such circumstances occurring in our life, or in the lives of those we love. However, I fear that under Obamacare, we’ll only see such instances increase. A provision within Obamacare endorses and allows for the funding of physician-assisted suicide. It’s treated as an acceptable and expected medical practice. This, coupled with the inevitable healthcare rationing, will lead us down a deadly path. Assisted-suicide will be a much cheaper option than paying for long-term palliative care. In the same way that abortion has grown to become big business, euthanasia is sure to follow. Together, we must unite in support of measures that will protect our most vulnerable. One day, it could be your own life that hangs in the balance.
Protecting ALL life,
Life Issues Institute
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