Earlier last week Georgia Marine recruit Josh Isaac died after being denied the basic necessities of food and water This may sound like the most horrendous act of torture saved for Marines and troops caught behind enemy lines, but it is yet another example of the misguided compassion that grips our society. The feeding tube has officially become the new “life support” and families who withhold this basic necessity from their loved ones who suffer traumatic brain injury are honored as truly caring for the well being of their suffering loved one and for realizing when it was time to ‘let go.’
Only they aren’t letting go of a life that is quickly passing away to the point that, without “extreme measures” that life would surely be at an end. Here the term “extreme measures” refers to having a machine literally keeping the patient alive by performing an otherwise normal life sustaining bodily activity for them, such as breathing. A A feeding tube is a medical device used to provide nutrition to patients who cannot or refuse to obtain nutrition by swallowing (source: wikipedia). This is hardly the equivelent of a person with no brain activity being hooked to a respirator when death is certainly imminent and inevitable by natural causes without it. Josh Isaac died 8 days after having his feeding tube removed, suggesting that his death was neither imminent or inevitable. Life Stie News reports:
Although medical science indicates the body on average takes 10-14 days to experience organ failure from dehydration, reports and Melia’s own statement indicate that the removal of the feeding either caused or expedited Isaac’s organ failure, indicating that he did not die a natural death.
But why would a family, after four years, finally decide to end the live of their loved one? In an interview with Life Site Alex Schadenberg, a bioethics expert from the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition points out the basic underlying reasons for this brutal action:
“You dehydrate somebody not because they’re in pain, but because either A: they’re dying, or B: their life is not worth living.”
In Isaac’s case he clearly was not dying, as the removal of the feeding tube was the cause of his death. So that only leaves one other option, his life was simply not worth living. This is confirmed in his mother’s statement after his death, “He didn’t have much of a life anymore. It was time to let go.” Notice she did not say he was no longer alive or even that he was dying, just that the life he had held no particular quality and it was not worth it to allow him to continue living. This is what is viewed in our society as a generous act of compassion aimed at eliminating needless human suffering.
But whose suffering is being eliminated? One Atlanta journal says: in the end, it was too much to bear, if not for him, for his family. Much of the sentiment behind the push for euthanasia and screening embryos to abort diseased children lies, not necessarily with the suffering of the individual, but the suffering and hardship that is placed on family members who must witness and take care of the sick person. When I was discussing the issue of “withholding treatment” with my grandmother, she said that if she were in a situation where she could no longer take care of herself she would want to die so that we wouldn’t have to bear the burden of taking care of her and watching her suffer.
That’s touching, I suppose, but it shows a serious lack of respect for the dignity of the human person. It is hard to take care of our loved ones, to watch them struggle and suffer, or even lie semi-unconscious for many years! But that doesn’t change the fact that he or she is a human person with intrinsic value. To intentionally cause the death of any human person is a serious offense against of human life for them and for all. To love means to give until it hurts, as Mother Theresa liked to say, which includes loving and giving constant care to our family members in the midst of their trials and extreme sufferings.
Suffering in this life is inevitable, we get sick, we lose jobs, get cut off in traffic or stuck behind slow moving vehicles, life is full of many major and minor adversities or discomforts. When those happen we are called to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Christ. Mark Pickup has an excellent post on the Christian meaning of suffering.
Instead of filling out a “living will”, which is more often a will to die, consider the “will to live” offered by National Right to Life.