Teri, euthanasia and my sister

Sunday, March 27, 2005

I try not to have my blog be political and for the most part I keep it fluffy and stick to non heated issues. But I’d like to briefly talk about Teri Schiavo, after all she is currently the #1 blogged about person right now.

I feel for everyone involved in this case, Teri, her husband and her parents. I do believe that it is a personal decision and that it should be up to the family as well. I’ve held my tongue on the subject even when my fellow grad students were discussing the issue in class. One student commented that Teri’s husband obviously does not love her anymore. But if that was the case he would have taken the money that was offered from the anti-euthanasia people and let his wife continue as is.
Some feel that it’s not right to take life into your own hands and that taking Teri off the machines goes against God’s natural plan. But there is nothing natural about having machines breathe for you. Fifty years ago Teri would have died naturally by now--modern technology is what is keeping her alive. If her family allowed the media’s cameras to show Teri's current condition with her laboriously breathing in her hospital bed and photos of her bruised body, then there is no way you could think that this is natural. Not that starving the poor girl is any more humane, urghh its just a hard case because we have no idea what SHE wants.

Let’s go back 23 years, when my mother was pregnant with me (although she didn’t know it) and my sister Serina (isn’t that a beautiful name?) who was three years old. One autumn day she chased her dog Toto across the street in front of her house and was hit by a careless driver. Going through what no parent should, my mom saw her daughter lying lifeless underneath a car.
When I was 11 and taking a bath with my mom, she pulled me into her arms and told me she could still see Serina’s little feet when her body was lifted onto the stretcher and brought into an ambulance. Desperately holding one another, we both cried as my mom went into real detail for the first time about Serina’s death. The doctors said she was brain dead and would never truly be “alive” again; she would only be a vegetable and would never breathe on her own. After a month of my parents living in the hospital, watching their daughter being poked with needles every couple of hours, and seeing her chest being lifted off the bed as the machines pumped air into her tiny lungs every couple of seconds, they realized as desperately as they wanted their child alive and always with them, they could not stand to see her exist like this. With a priest in the room, my parents turned off her machines and my mother gathered her child into her arms one last time, like she did to me in the tub that day, while she told me of how Serina’s skin turned blue and how her baby was finally able to rest peacefully and not simply existing in a comatose state for the rest of her days.

This was obviously not an easy decision on their part, nor anyone forced into a situation like this one. So, it seems the only way to have your beliefs be carried out in an event like this is by writing instructions in a living will for your family. I know several people who have done so already.
Live Wire Article: "NYU Students Prepare for Death" by Jennifer Richards

Stat: A woman's risk of untimely death increases by four times in the three years following the loss of a child (Newsweek)

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