Pull the plug on life support for departed
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She lay there in the bed: unsensing, expressionless, a human vegetable living on hospital tubes alone.
At that point her existence was debatable. It wasn’t her—spirit gone, face swelled and soul lifted. My grandmother had passed away long before the fluids began leaking out of her swollen pores. Monitors said she was breathing and blood was pumping, but death had already consumed her gentle heartbeat. The Lord called her home. The doctor pulled the tubes. The warmth of her body left through the tips of her fingers as I stood holding her left hand and death claimed her in front of my eyes.
There was a point in the week-long process of my grandmother’s hospitalization when our family came to the consensus that allowing her to remain on life-support was selfish and only yielded more suffering for her.
Love is sometimes letting go.
In many critical life and death situations, emotional attachments do not justify keeping people on assisted living.
Circumstances will always differ, but generally speaking, it is unethical to keep the dead living through artificial nutrition and hydration for extended amounts of time.
This issue has gained national attention. The 2005 Terri Schiavo case and the 1990 Nancy Cruzan case caused debates among family members over intentions and morality. The question remained over who was doing what was truly best for the patient. But after years of severe pysical inadequacy, who would want to remain alive?
It is not easy to let go, but often necessary. Inner-family disputes over such matters need government judgement and an ethics council.
One recent situation was in West Palm Beach, Fla. On Sept. 19, Karen Weber, 57, died after she was taken off feeding tubes on the request of her husband, Raymond Weber. Weber, who claimed his spouse would not want to live in a persistent vegetative state for an extended amount of time, fought in court against Karen’s mother, Martha Tatro, who believed her daughter was alert after her December stroke. But Karen was suffering from meningitis and had been unresponsive during the entire period. It took government intervention to allow Weber to relieve his wife from her immobile, earthly state. While it was difficult for him to pull the tube and know she would die, it was the best thing for her.
There are exceptions to life-support cases, and treatment is not always humane and appropriate in each situation. Doctors and nurses must be conscious of the emotional needs of those affected, but family cannot allow someone to suffer after losing control of all bodily functions.
Miracles do exist. People can regain their capabilities after accidents. But sustaining human vegetables on life support for unethical amounts of time is more tragic to than learning to say farewell at the proper time.
Life-support is a medical beauty when not abused.