Friday, February 18, 2005

Right to Die or Right to Live?

Imagine being in a horrible accident and not being able to communicate with those around you for 20 years. Now, imagine being the family of the person in the accident. How many people would not have it run through their minds to simply end what they perceive to be the suffering and low quality of life for their loved one?
It’s yet unknown what, if anything Sarah Scantlin was aware of during her 20 years in a catatonic state in a Hutchinson, Kansas acute care facility. What is clear now is that she inexplicably regained the ability to communicate earlier this month. Scantlin was a pretty 18-year-old college freshman that had just made the drill team when she was the passenger involved in a terrible accident in 1984. Her parents were told that she would remain unable to communicate, walk or move by herself for the rest of her life.
News reports haven’t made it clear if the family of Scantli never thought of ending her suffering. But her parents did say that, sometimes, in order to cope with the wide range of emotions, they sometimes had to pretend that she was gone.
An open house was recently held at the nursing home where Scantlin has lived since the accident. Scantlin recognizes her parents, her brother and even remembers pets from her childhood. She says simple things to her mother such as “hi,” and “I love you.”
Scantlin’s doctors have told broadcast reporters that they have no explanation except that the brain “Sometimes re-wires itself.” They do not yet know her prognosis, or even if she might suffer a relapse.
Many of us would not want to live on life support, hooked up to machines that must breathe for us or that keeps our heart pumping and blood flowing. But what about comatose or catatonic states, where as long as there is life, there is still hope?
That is the position that Terri Schiavo’s parents have long taken in Florida. Telling doctors they know their daughter is cognizant of some things and they have the hope that she will regain her life. Schiavo is not on life support, but must be on a feeding tube. Her husband said that his wife would not want to be kept alive in such a manner. He’s petitioned the courts and in the latest battle has won, to have her feeding tube removed.
It is unknown if Scantlin was on a feeding tube, but what, if anything, does Scantlin’s amazing and unexplainable recovery mean for Terri Schiavo? At the least, it must make us reconsider how far we want our doctors and loved ones to go with hope and what constitutes quality of life, life support and the right to die.

5 Comments:

Blogger Janet said...

This is an issue that needs to be considered by all not only those that are involved with those in a comatose state. The question "what if?" is there for all who have the potential of being in that position some day. Personal questions of morality versus hope can only be answered by those in the situation.

3:33 PM CST  
Blogger hooper2 said...

Playing God is a dangerous game. And, it's not always clear when the game has begun.

4:21 PM CST  
Blogger Idalesta said...

I feel there are different situations that call for different things but it is for everyone to decide not just one person. Unless the wife had told her husband that she never wanted to live on life support it should be for the whole family to decide.

9:07 PM CST  
Blogger Terri said...

We all must think ahead and make clear to others our wishes should we ever end up in such a situation as the woman written about here.

11:03 AM CST  
Blogger Hawksfriend said...

I honestly believe this to be a very personal issue and one that should be decided on a case by case basis. Hope can be a very good thing, but false hope can be just a devastating thing to live with on a day by day situation. I believe I would have wished my loved ones if in that position to let me go. I would not want them to have to go through the emotional, financial and physical upheavals and agonies that a 20 year coma would have brought about. I know that there is a better place awaiting for me when the end comes so for me this is a fairly easy stance to take; while for others it may be much harder.

12:43 PM CST  

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