John Steward of Jesus
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Life Support Decisions

(After writing this I read of more facts which changed my feelings regarding this messy case.  Yet I endorse what is said here.)


In the current environment it is treacherous to say anything on the topic of the day, but with hesitation I will try to make a constructive contribution on this forum which is limited in distribution and permanency of record.

It seems to me the Terri Schiavo case raises at least three significant issues:

l. What medical means should be used to keep brain, heart, or lung cells alive as long as possible?
2. Should individuals have some freedom to make such a decision for
3. Who should make such a decision for an incapacitated individual?

My comments will not answer these questions, but I hope they will be helpful in leading to answers.

In a time when medical machines are available which in combination at a cost of millions of dollars can keep the brain, heart, or lung cells of any body in a "living" state for years and decades longer than they would remain alive without such assistance, it is impossible for me to say that in any specific case this should be done. It seems to me that nobody is pleading that every extreme measure available be used to extend every "life". I would not want this done to my body. So, in the spirit of treating others the way I would want to be treated, I would not insist on every extreme measure for them either. Not only must I consider the "patient", but also those who will pay for the "treatment", through whatever means. If I am not willing to commit the rest of my life and the lives of my children to pay the cost, I should not try to put it off on others either.

Which takes us to the question of who decides what shall or shall not be done. Should I be able to decide what is done or not done to my body? My answer is yes. Just as I have the freedom to decide whether to jump off a cliff, gulp a bottle of pills, smoke for fifty years, spray lacquer in a confined space without a respirator, take or not take a flu shot, eat junk food or nutritional food, and hundreds of other choices which men and women make every day, I believe that each of us should retain the freedom before our Maker to decide which medical means will be used to "extend" our lives.  I want others to give me this freedom, which means I must give it to them.  I may and sometime must warn them when I see them abusing this freedom. But I should not take it from them if they seem otherwise to be competent.

So, who must make the decision for the incompetent? Those who we think are entrusted with their care. Which begs the question. The answer depends on our model of social integration. Who is lord? Who is god? Who is father?

Wives, who would you want to make such a decision for you? Husbands, who would you want to make such a decision for your wife if you were still alive and competent?

Should such a decision be needed regarding my wife, while I am alive and competent, I would want the freedom to make it. It seems to me that those who are closest to someone and love them most are best qualified to make such decisions. If I would not want my in-laws to have the power to override my decision, neither should I give the in-laws of other husbands the power to do so.

Much more could be said. But for now I will only observe that I am far more concerned that those who claim to represent governments of men will impose their will regarding the giving or withholding of medical procedures on my family members, than I am concerned that one of my family members will have my feeding tube removed.