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Monday, August 07, 2006

Quality vs. Sanctity of Life

We had a prayer request at church for a woman's coworker and her son. Seems the son has some pretty serious physical disabilities, and some slight mental disabilities. He lives in a halfway house type arrangement, and was doing well. However, he had something happen, I didn't catch if it was an accident, or a complication with his condition, and the doctor told her that a particular surgery was necessary or he would die. Then, right in front of this son, who may be disabled, but isn't stupid, asks if she wants to do it, or just let him die. After she insisted on the surgery, as they were getting him ready for surgery, he asked her if he should bother bringing him out of the surgery, again in the presence of this young man.

We've sure come a long way, haven't we? Now that we have all those "rights" to kill. It takes someone who doesn't think that life is sacred to decide whose life qualifies to continue. I wonder that people can say these things in the presence of the people they wish to kill or to have been killed. I think of the "wrongful life" suits that people are bringing and winning in some cases, where a woman or set of parents sues a doctor/hospital/clinic for somehow misdiagnosing something on ultrasound or not getting the information to her soon enough so she could abort. They bring these suits and continue fighting until as late as ten years afterward, when these children are now born and in their care. Why not put them up for adoption at birth if you don't want them, and it's "too late" to abort? Why can't you get over it eight or ten years later? How can you possibly continue with a lawsuit like that, saying that you would rather your child hadn't been born, and that even now, you would rather have killed the person who is coming into the courtroom as "evidence" than let them live, and still face that child?

It reminds me of a woman I used to communicate with on a usenet group some time ago. She was having infertility issues, a discussion about treatments came up, and I said I had some moral problems with the artificial treatments available now. There was a little debate, and eventually this woman ended up asking me to describe the healing I received which allowed me to bear children. I was reluctant to speak, since this was a highly secular and pretty anti-religious crowd, but she was very interested and insisted. I then related our story, being very conscious to make clear that I was only speaking for us and our experience. She then came back at me saying something about how I was telling her she didn't pray enough. I should have known to disengage at that point, since she was clearly not thinking all that straight, but I tried to explain that I was just telling our story. Well, things got heated after that, and I learned not to reply to her about things in that subject.

Fast forward a year or so, and she's in the middle of treatment, she relates some things about her marriage and the treatment that would have been red flags to me, but I knew better than to say anything at that point. They eventually have success, and she conceives twin boys. This is wonderful, or at least I thought so, and aside from having a truly strenuous and difficult pregnancy, which is hard to live through, I thought she would be thrilled. After all that work, and arguing that she deserved to have a pregnancy and getting all bent out of shape at anyone suggesting that the methods she wanted to use might be questionable, she makes a statement that after all it turns out that she probably should never have been a mother and she was making her husband go get "fixed." She complained bitterly about how much she disliked being at home with the boys, caring for their needs, and the hard labor that goes along with being a mother (let alone a mother of twins) entailed.

I really knew not to speak at that point, but was shocked at the turn around, and at how blindly supportive this crowd was about this decision as well, not a single person pointed out that she was the one who fought and pushed so hard for the "right" to have a baby, and that she was angry and defensive about anyone who questioned her methods, and actually made arguments to the effect of "You think because of my condition I shouldn't be a mother." Last I heard, she still thinks that my story, which she asked to know, was somehow an indictment of her, and laughably, that it was my indication that she didn't go to the right church/believe in the right things. What makes that such a laughable thought is that, of course, I never connected my story to her, and only talked about our experience, making clear that I didn't think it was such an easy proposition, and that it occurred in the context of a church that was not our own, not one we have much theological sympathy for, nor would we send anyone to that type of church or recommend it.

Anyway, what made me think of it was how in all these situations, the only thing I could hope was that the children wouldn't know or understand what was said about them. I grieve over the thought that these children (and adults who happen to be handicapped or mentally disabled) would hear and understand what their parents, the doctors or the courts say about their right to exist. I think of what I read recently which quoted an adult man with Down's syndrome, who spoke of the disparity between two positions Ted Kennedy holds (he is a vocal proponent of and, I believe financial supporter of the Special Olympics and also insists that no woman should have to bear the indignity of a "defective" or unwanted child). The man said "I may be slow, but I am not stupid. Does he think that people like me can't understand what he really thinks of us? That we are not really wanted? That it would be a better world if we didn't exist?" The commentator ended by saying "This seems to be exactly what so many of our fellow Americans actually think, though they prefer to say that they want to spare such children suffering." I would only add that they include adults and the elderly as well.

Meanwhile I am going into a surgery in a state with very "progressive" ideas about euthanasia, abortion, right to die issues, etc. I hereby wish to publicly announce what my health directive terms should be (modified from the Junkyard Blog's post last year). This is my Living Will:

No matter what happens to me, you are to keep me alive at all costs, financial, physical, temporal, emotional and spiritual. You are to use both ordinary and extraordinary means to keep me alive. Who knows, by the time this document is needed, a Tylenol may be seen as extraordinary means? Rather than being put in a hospital or questionable hospice facility, I want an in home nurse, who has no vested interest in hastening my demise (or anyone else's for that matter), and any necessary equipment brought in, so as to limit idiotic hospital protocols which will be detrimental to my care.

If I wind up severely brain damaged you will perform all the tests. You will not rely on the word of some clown who's too lazy or stupid to do a proper examination, you will do an MRI and a PET. Poking me with car keys does not constitute a proper test to determine my mental acuity. A slap to the forehead is not a valid measure of my pain threshold. Forty-five minutes is not enough time to make a diagnosis that will get me killed. Do it right, with a real doctor who has no connection to the Hemlock Society. I hate those creeps.

You will engage me in conversation. You will stimulate what remains of my mind. My children will be allowed to visit me, I will be taken outside for daily walks, given cats to pet (as well as I am able), and otherwise involved in the world. You will not keep me locked up away from the world, the better to expedite deterioration and death.

I will have rehabilitation. If there is even the slightest chance I can improve you will encourage that improvement.

Anyone who has no knowledge of my case who claims that I am in a persistent vegetative state shall be taken to court for defamation. The money gained from such suits will go to my support. The same applies to those who do examine me, and then lie about my condition. Especially if they have ever had any connection to the Hemlock Society, or Planned Parenthood, or the NEA (either NEA--I'm not choosy). If it turns out they have had such associations, then sue those groups too. They have lots of money that would be better used making me well.

If I need a feeding tube, any attempt to remove said feeding tube shall be considered attempted homicide and prosecuted accordingly. In addition, if said action was ordered by a court of law the judge presiding is to be charged on civil rights grounds and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Any pundit of any stripe who states that I would not want to be in such a state is to be stripped naked, his skin rubbed raw with scrubbing pads, salt placed on the wounds, and then tossed into a vat of carrion beetles. After being given drugs that heighten sensation. This action will be taped and distributed on the internet.

If provided with a guardian and said guardian petitions to have me killed, that guardian is to be charged with attempted murder and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. See above paragraph for hints of my other wishes involving said guardian.

I'll die when I die. You will not rush matters. You will leave well enough alone. Death happens soon enough for us all, don't be so darn eager to hurry it up.


I think that's a little bit unfair. She loves those boys. She was just a stressed out mother of new twins, she'd been deathly ill herself, and as you probably know a lot of times you just write/post when you are stressed out, and when things are going well you don't necessarily bother.
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Actually, I believe I was more than fair in contrasting her words. Although I know this is a minority position, I believe that words and actions have real consequences, one of them being judgement of them by those who observe them. I do not think that having the right thoughts about any given subject gives someone a pass on whatever they say or do, though I know that is a commonly held position now, especially if someone feels badly enough at the time they do/say something.

In the first place, I didn't use her name, and was writing to an audience which had close to zero chance of knowing her, which is more than I can say about her and a few other people. Except for you and perhaps one other person who reads this blog on a regular basis, there is nobody in my audience that I can think of who would know of whom I wrote, and unless you told her, she wouldn't know that she was spoken of here. I doubt that someone who still holds such ill feeling for me reads this on her own, though I could be wrong.

Second, I did not write anything false about what she said. Contrast both of these to the fact that after asking for me to share a personal story, she completely misrepresented it and mischaracterized me for the purposes of personal attack, in a public forum which was archived, and after having it clarified for her continues to this day to lie about what I said in gossip to those who do know me, using my name.

Aside from that, IMO, she has forfeited her right to such complaints and statements by the fact that she held a grudge against her own mother for saying what she said about herself, on more than one occasion. Of course, given how she has twisted my words, it is entirely possible that her mother said nothing more to her than that she should curb her fervor. It was also given as a material reason for the vasectomy, which unless I am mistaken, did occur.

She pushed for having her "own" child, arguing that she had the right to do so in any manner she wished, that she deserved to be a mother, and that anyone who questioned her methods was a mean spirited killjoy. She didn't even want anyone to ask hard questions. Then, to turn around and say that she shouldn't have been a mother, that she hated dealing with the children and that her husband was going to get "fixed" now, because of it, regardless of the stress she was under or the frustration, or even the health problems, was uncalled for.

When someone argues so vehemently that she deserves to be a mother at any and all costs, and castigates others who question the methods she approves of as being meanies who think she shouldn't have children, she has no place to then say she shouldn't have had a child. And to have it go completely unchallenged was even more of a surprise. To put herself, her husband and her extended family through all of that, hold grudges against people for allegedly saying that she shouldn't be a mother, and then to conclude the whole ordeal by saying she shouldn't have ever been a mother is incongruous at best. I'm sorry, regardless of how much she loves her sons, she shouldn't have said that. And she owes a few people apologies, if it is somehow okay to say that, yet she still holds a grudge.

I do understand saying something you regret out of frustration, but I do not think she didn't mean it entirely, or the vasectomy would have been a joke, rather than the outcome. Would you like for your children to know that you said something similar to the things she said about them, even in the heat of frustration? Again, I say that the only hope I have is that her children (and the other examples) never do find out what was said of them.
In the first place, I didn't use her name, and was writing to an audience which had close to zero chance of knowing her, which is more than I can say about her and a few other people. Except for you and perhaps one other person who reads this blog on a regular basis, there is nobody in my audience that I can think of who would know of whom I wrote, and unless you told her, she wouldn't know that she was spoken of here. I doubt that someone who still holds such ill feeling for me reads this on her own, though I could be wrong.

Actually, that's not the case. Your blog is syndicated on LiveJournal where a large number of former members of that newsgroup participate.


Personally I'm incredibly torn as to what to do. I want to point it out to her since she's a good friend and I would want to know if I were being discussed in such a manner, but I also know she'd be upset by it.
I am quite surprised that there is a large number of people from that group which reads this blog, actually.

It doesn't change the fact that I didn't use her name, nor did I lie about what she said.

It is, of course, your call as to whether or not you wish to tell her. I may point out that nobody was that concerned about telling me that I was being discussed in a negative way at any point after I stopped being active. There was no doubt, in that context, who was being discussed, as I was referred to by name, to people who most definitely knew who I was. It was also not to illustrate any point but simply a way to vent ugly feelings and restate a falsehood.
If you wish to further this discussion, I believe you still have, or at least have access to, my email address.
Due to LJ weirdness, this showed up again, which is why I'm commenting now.

FYI, there are 11 people on LiveJournal who (probably) read your blog, and most of them I recognize as being from AN. If you'd like to know who they are, drop me an email and let me know. (It is public information, but I still don't particularly want to leave it in a public comment.)
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