Another family feud over the life of a disabled family member, a la the Schindler-Schiavo fight 3 years ago, is taking shape in Delaware. Lauren Richardson suffered severe brain damage after a heroin overdose in 2006. She is responsive and breathing on her own, but because she must be fed through a feeding tube and is so severely handicapped, Lauren’s mother (who has custody of her) is convinced that Lauren would “not want to live like this” and should be killed by having her feeding tube removed. God bless Lauren’s father, Randy, for fighting to save his daughter’s life.
Once upon a time people with serious brain injuries were loved and cared for and received intense physical therapy, not because they could “fully recover” but because there was still functioning brain activity and hope for at least some improvement. One of the fundamental characteristics of humanity is our ability to love and care for the weak and suffering members of our society, especially within our own families. People like Lauren Richardson are not brain dead or dying and a feeding tube is not artificial life support – they are seriously disabled individuals who need only the basic human necessities to continue living.
The true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer. This holds true both for the individual and for society. A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through “com-passion” is a cruel and inhuman society. Yet society cannot accept its suffering members and support them in their trials unless individuals are capable of doing so themselves; moreover, the individual cannot accept another’s suffering unless he personally is able to find meaning in suffering, a path of purification and growth in maturity, a journey of hope. (Spe Salvi, n. 38)