Thursday, July 27, 2006

Dr. Death

On, the daily news line-up featured a column entitled "Doctors Kept Asking to 'Let' My Father Die: Wall Street Journalist." The article is a summary of a column that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Friday, July 21, 2006 - "How Faith Saved the Athiest: Why did the doctors stop asking me to pull the plug?" The WSJ column, written by Pamela Winnick, describes her father's time in the hospital due to a blood clot. During this time in the hospital, she was repeatedly asked to "pull the plug" on her father or let him "die with dignity." She devised the ruse to tell the staff that her family and her father were Orthodox Jews. Once this was known, the hospital staff avoided further death with "dignity" talk.
Though my father was born to an Orthodox Jewish family, he is an avowed atheist who long ago had rejected his parents' ways. As I sat in the ICU, blips on the various screens the only proof that my father was alive, the irony struck me: My father, who had long ago rejected Orthodox Judaism, was now under its protection.

As though to confirm this, there came a series of miracles. Just a week after he was rushed to ICU, my father was pronounced well enough to be moved out of the unit into North Shore's long-term respiratory care unit. A day later he was off the respirator, able to breathe on his own. He still mostly slept, but then he began to awaken for minutes at a time, at first groggy, but soon he was as alert (and funny) as ever. A day later, we walked in to find him sitting upright in a chair, reading the New York Times.
Soon thereafter, her father was able to leave the hospital - alive and well.
On Father's Day, we packed my father's hospital room: his wife, daughters, grandchildren, each of us regaling him with our successes large and small. "Life's not so bad, after all," the atheist said. I wanted to go back to ICU, find Dr. Death, drag her to my father's room and say: "This is the life you wanted to end."
(Note: I thought it is worth mentioning that one sad thing about Minnick's column is her rant against "conservative" Christians, but regardless of that fact, the account of her father's treatment is still valid and compelling.)

The news article does a nice job using Minnick's column to describe the situation we find ourselves in, that is, a medical profession that seems eager to end life as soon as possible. As Mr. Vanderheyden notes in the Lifesite article:
Ever increasing reports of incidents of this sort points towards a frightful widening acceptance and often even imposition of euthanasia for the sick and the elderly. The medical community appears the most insistent on this while conveying an attitude that it is far less trouble and less expensive for them to simply cease treatment for those they deem are close to death or even just incurable. It is becoming common in Western hospitals that the elderly are passively and sometimes actively euthanized without their or their family's consent. Last month reported on a prominant British medical ethicist who stated that it is time to "regulate" the already existing practice of "involuntary euthanasia," often referred to in legal systems as "murder."

A joint statement by a group of doctors and lawyers on euthanasia and physician assisted suicide (PAS) published on in October of last year warned that "If euthanasia became legalized, the decision whether to terminate or preserve a patient's life or to assist with PAS will rest with the medical profession. To legalize euthanasia and PAS would dramatically increase the power doctors have over their patients and severely decrease patient autonomy."
Who know's how scary things will be in the coming years when a medical emergency arises and you have to use hospital emergency facilities. Will Dr. Death be there waiting to "pull the plug" on you or your loved one? I don't mean to end on such a frightening note, but we have to understand the realities of the medical profession and how these "strangers" at our bedside may soon be calling all the shots when it comes to matters of life and death, whether in the name of let him "die with dignity" or "you are using up valuable resources or space" or "you cost too much" or you are an "inconveience."

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