Friday, April 01, 2005

quality of life

Many of us have responded very emotionally to the unfortunate public spectacle of Terri Schiavo and her divided family.

I'm too far removed from the situation to speculate about who's right, the husband or the parents. How should I know whether Ms. Schiavo would have wanted her feeding tube disconnected, or whether she was still responsive to her loved ones despite her condition? It isn't possible to make such judgments based on media reports.

My personal contribution to the subject is to offer just one thought: Ms. Schiavo's life had value and meaning, despite her intellectual impairment.

For six years, I worked in a residence for developmentally challenged individuals who required total care: we bathed them, fed them, diapered them, and carried or wheeled them from place to place. Just like Terri Schiavo's caregivers did for her.

One of the people I cared for was unable to swallow food. Instead, he had a j-tube: that is, a tube inserted directly into his intestine (the jejunum, hence "j-tube") via which we fed him a liquid diet. Just like Terri Schiavo had to be fed through a tube.

As far as I could tell, the folks we cared for were happy to be alive. We certainly would have known it if they were miserable: they were able to express anger or sorrow quite effectively without words.

The only difference is, they were born in that condition, whereas Terri Schiavo was a "normal" adult before her heart stopped for ten minutes. Her situation is undeniably tragic, painfully so from the perspective of those who knew her before she suffered brain damage.

Still, her life had value and meaning even in her diminished condition: as much value and meaning as any human life possesses. That is my conviction, based on my experience with the folks I used to care for.

A couple of those folks have died just recently, and I believe the human family is a little poorer without them.

The same sentiment applies with respect to Terri Schiavo -- even if her husband was right, and she would have wanted to die.


At 8:53 AM, April 03, 2005, Blogger Joy said...

Hello there... I dropped by your site after reading the comments you posted on my site. ( I responded by the way =) )

Your writings are very humane and in touch with the emotions... Pray do write more =)

At 10:34 AM, April 08, 2005, Blogger Bill said...

There are numerous things to consider in regards to Terri Schaivo and I had thought as you said "her life had value and meaning even in her diminished condition."

The whole thing was very sad.

Unfortunately I had to concede that the best that was possible under what I might think was less than the best of conditions was done in regards to Terri Schaivo.

The protest was needed and, the legal battle was conducted well. All legitimate sides were given a fair amount of time to put forward their case, and even if we are not in agreement with the outcome, the best we could do at the moment was done.

I am strongly in favour of having the courts as the means to prevent political abuse of power. Though I am not sure of the outcome, this case does show how politicians are still restricted by the rule of Law. Even the president was powerless to thwart the rule of law.

At 9:59 AM, July 13, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To love and and be loved..this is my quest..this is my feeding tube.


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