A recent event in our city highlighted the collision of church and state in our medical system. The 'death' of an 85 year old man has reignited the debate on a delicate issue.
This patient had been, for all intents and purposes, gone or 'gorked' as they say in the biz, long ago. He had been placed on life support for over 200 days at a cost of nearly half a million dollars...money that could have been re-allocated towards helping a younger person who actually had a chance of recuperating and moving forward with their life.
The man's adult children, in accordance with their interpretation of their religious beliefs, it doesn't really matter which religion, refused to have him taken off of the machines in order to die when he was ready, and their God 'took' him. Three attending Doctors refused to continue and actually quit working at the hospital in order to sidestep a court order that was won by the family's lawyer.
Cases like this present an emotional minefield for all of us to cross. The simple truth is that had the man NOT been put on life support he would have died 200 days ago. Ok I'll state the obvious...if it was one of my children I would be inclined to hope for the best and interpret every flicker of an eyelash as a desperate plea to continue..Doctors are not infallable...but, if it was an elderly member of my family I would have probably let them 'go'...
to my way of thinking a mechanically preserved 'shell' of someone who had experienced a long life deserves to expire in a timely fashion...
being mechanically sustained with no sign of improvement is not my definition of a human 'being'...
I'll say it...Age matters.
On the flip side religious organisations that need no introduction still refuse to allow their subjects to practice birth control because it interferes with their interpretation of what happens during coitus. I presume that they think that a tiny angel that looks like Tinkerbell swoops down the Love Canal and sprinkles glittery magic dust on the lonely exhausted sperm as it burrows into the reluctant egg. Really. This is incredibly convenient because it 'magically' provides a builtin supply of pew warmers and tithers. Hmm.
Despite the fact that billions of other multicellular organisms on the planet perform this identical method of reproduction millions of times every hour, somehow we are special eh? Really.
What both of these situations finally come down to is a clear legal definition of what a Human is.
Is it a half mystical being comprised of an eternal, indestructable, imvisible spirit destined to either be recycled or sent off to a heavenly reward or infinite torment?
Or are we bipedal mammalian uber-primates that have by chance and billions of years of trial and error, somehow managed to evolve with an extraordinarily over developed brain that has allowed us to be conscious of our existance, and able to remake our world?
Thirdly, could it be some inexplicably complicated and bizarre combination of the two? Hmm..this is where many of us stopped examining the enormity of the question. Idunnoknow?
Because we refuse to confront the conundrum of WHAT WE ARE, we sort of reluctantly deal with life and death issues with kid gloves. Economic factors will eventually provide most of the solutions through a supply and demand driven osmosis..
more so than Ethics..
because there simply aren't enough resources available to keep every self interest group happy, for lack of a better term.
Politicians will kowtow to the whims of the almighty voters and merrily swing either way ...in order to stay in power.
Many will stake their political 'lives' on designing their demographically driven platform to dovetail with the religio-politico majority...to the exclusion of others who believe otherwise...ah Dumbocracy..to think that this is the best method of settling issues that we have to work with.
God IS 51%.
Here in the West we seem to be fairly nonchalant about 30,000 children on the OTHER side of the world starving to death every day and yet we'll spend half a million dollars preserving a single 85 year old man that 'died' almost a year ago.
We really need to talk about how we are coming & going.