Here's a wonderful example of how good directions can make a great legacy.
Even while she lay dying from breast cancer in Wales, Helen Harcombe left instructions to her husband from raising her seven year old daughter, Ffion.
• Uniform bought every September. Check hair for nits regularly.
• Bath and hair every other night, AT LEAST. No child of mine to be smelly.
• Make sure you serve food with veg/peas. Get fruit down her. Don't let her live out of cans, noodles and toast etc.
• At Christmas time don't forget the smaller things like stocking fillers to make it look more and fill up the stocking - chocolates, bobbles, clips, make up, fun stuff etc.
• Bedding should be changed once a fortnight, more if sweaty.
• Flowers to me at least Mothers' Day, my birthday, Ffion's birthday, our anniversary, Christmas etc (in between would be nice!)
• Keep in touch witFi's godparents and my friends and especially Mam and Dad or ... I'll haunt you!
"It did bring a smile to a lot of people's faces and the pointers I am sure will be with us forever probably."
Ms Raybould said it was also important to have left something for Ffion. "It does show that even though her mother was going through a difficult illness, that the focus was on the family and on her," she said.
Jill Templeman, a family support team leader for Marie Curie Cancer Care in Wales, said the list was "a lovely and invaluable thing. We do encourage and try to support families to be open and prepare for death in lots of different ways with memory boxes and photo projects."
Cancer specialist Baroness Ilora Finlay, professor of palliative medicine and vice dean in the School of Medicine at Cardiff University, said Mrs Harcombe had left "a tremendous legacy".
"Helen died tragically young, leaving a young daughter and I really hope for her daughter that that list and that letter will become indeed more treasured with time," she said.
Here's a new twist. Vertical cemeteries where you stand up to be buried.
A new Aussie cemetery that plans to provide cheap, environmentally friendly burials just won government approval.
In Derrinallum about 125 miles southwest of Melbourne, the new cemetery will hold bodies in a morgue in Melbourne to be transported in batches of 12 to 15, encased in bodybags, to be buried in individual pre-drilled holes at a cost of about $800. The land will be returned to pasture and, once stable, to grazing by animals on the plains facing Mount Elephant.
Palacom director Tony Duplex said "When you die, you are returned to the earth with a minimum of fuss and with no paraphernalia that would affect the environment. You're not burning 90kg of gas in a crematorium and there's no ongoing maintenance costs."
Alive, the "extinct" ivory billed woodpecker in the Big Woods of Arkansas, 550,000 acres of bayous, bottomland forests and oxbow lakes.
After decades of legends and unconfirmed rumors centering on the swampy woodlands of the South, scientists today announced something of an ornithological miracle: multiple confirmed sightings of the ivory-billed woodpecker, a bird whose last confirmed sighting dates back to World War II.
John Fitzpatrick, director of the Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University said,
This is really the Holy Grail for birds." "It's legendary, it's mysterious, it has been a majestic symbol of America's South,
Over a year ago, Gene Sparling of Hot Springs, Arkansas, made the first sighting. Two weeks later, Tim Gallagher, editor of Living Bird magazine and Bobby Harrison, an associate professor at Oakwood College, joined Sparling and kayaked into the bayou.
On Feb. 27, as Sparling paddled ahead, a large black-and-white woodpecker flew across the bayou less than 70 feet in front of Gallagher and Harrison, who simultaneously cried out: "Ivory-bill!" Minutes later, after the bird had disappeared into the forest, Gallagher and Harrison sat down to sketch independently what each had seen. Their field sketches, included in the Science article, show the characteristic patterns of white and black on the wings of the woodpecker.
"When we finished our notes," Gallagher said, "Bobby sat down on a log, put his face in his hands and began to sob, saying, 'I saw an ivory-bill. I saw an ivory-bill.'" Gallagher said he was too choked with emotion to speak. "Just to think this bird made it into the 21st century gives me chills. It's like a funeral shroud has been pulled back, giving us a glimpse of a living bird, rising Lazarus-like from the grave," he said.
David Luneau who captured the crucial video footage of the ivory billed woodpecker explained why the woodpecker is sometimes called the 'Lord God' bird.
"When people would see it, they would utter, 'Lord God, what a bird,'" he said.
This is a great legacy that many people have contributed to We can thank the Bigwoods Conservation Partnership who have worked to conserve this bottomland hardwood and swamp ecosystem. The Big Woods Conservation Partnership includes the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, The Nature Conservancy, Oakwood College in Huntsville, Ala., Louisiana State University, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Birdman Productions, LLC, and Civic Enterprises, LLC.
We may be burying our best medical lessons by not doing enough autopsies writes David Dobbs in Buried Answers in the New York Times magazine.
Autopsy is the most powerful tool in medicine, responsible for most of our knowledge of anatomy and disease says Alan Schiller, chairman of pathology at Mt Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
Neglecting the autopsy is anathema to the whole practice of medicine.
In the 1960s, almost 50% of all deaths were autopsied, today the number is less than 5%. Dr. George Lundberg, a pathologist who edits the online medical journal Medscape says nothing can reveal error like an autopsy and by revealing mistakes, help doctors learn and advance the cause of medicine.
Only an autopsy can reveal whether a patient died of Alzheimer's, or multi-infarct dementia or encephalitis or even a variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob prion killing disease. What a patient really died of has enormous significance for their survivors. The real cause of death can reveal what the surviving family can take preventative action against. In many cases, an autopsy can provide the family with a "welcome sense of resolution.... ease anguish about things done or not done"
Reliance on diagnostic tools before death like CAT scans and MRI's instead of autopsies only buries the real answers.
One of my own family doctors told me that he rarely asks for an autopsy because ''with M.R.I.'s and CAT scans and everything else, we usually know why they died.''
This sense of omniscience, Lundberg says, is part of ''a vast cultural delusion.'' At his most incensed, Lundberg says he feels that his fellow doctors simply don't want to face their own fallibility. But Lundberg's indictment is even broader. The autopsy's decline reflects not just individual arrogance, but also the general state of health care: the increasing distance and unease between doctors and patients and their families, a pervasive fear of lawsuits, our denial of age and death and, especially, our credulous infatuation with technology. Our doctors' overconfidence, less bigheaded than blithe, is part of the medicine we've come to expect.
So there's one more thing you can do for your family - insist on an autopsy as part of your last wishes. You'll be advancing the cause of medicine at the same time.
“Is it me or does she look even hotter dead than when she was alive?”
“In a way I blame myself. But not to the extent the authorities do.”
“This is kind of ironic, considering that Shannon was always the life of the party.”
HT grow a brain
213 euphemisms for dying over at Dead & Buried. I'm sure you'll find one that works just right.
From Greek allusions sowing the Elysian fields
to Mafia ones- get whacked or knocked off
to the politically correct - negative patient care outcome
to the biblical - go the way of all earth
to Shakespeare- the journey's end
to the computer geek -cached in his chips
to chefs -fettuccine al dead-o
Thankfully Alexander Stuttaford reads the London obituary pages and brings us the most delicious tidbits.
The 10th Earl of Shaftesbury, whose death aged 66 was confirmed yesterday, demonstrated the dangers of the possession of inherited wealth coupled with a weakness for women and Champagne.
Longtime chairman of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, a respected conservationist who planted more than a million trees on his Dorset estate. Shaftesbury
had been devoting himself to helping vulnerable young girls working in nightspots on the French Riviera to start new lives. But as the mystery deepened, it seemed that his interest was more than merely philanthropic.
It's so great to read comments that point you to something that otherwise I never would have known. In one of my briefest posts, 1918 blogger, Tom Cunliffe of the Bright Field weblog points to his post, Our Hidden Lives , all about a movement in Britain during the 1940's called Mass Observation.
Ordinary people were encouraged to keep diaries over a period of years which were then collected, along with oral recordings as a sort of social archive of their times which has been preserved by the University of Sussex.
"Unputdownable" is how Tom describes a book - Our Hidden Lives - put together of several of the diarists. Why? These were just ordinary people who dealt with the aftermath of World War II in ordinary ways, by coping with the stuff of life -joy and sickness, financial worries and things particular to their time -food rationing and unemployment. But it's how people deal with the stuff of life that's so engrossing.
People never tire of hearing about the details of other lives - the smallest things, what they wore, what they ate, what they rode, what they saw and experienced, what they watched and read and were influenced by, what they thought, what they learned.
Imagine how your great grandchildren will appreciate the ordinary details of your life. That's the gift of personal legacy archives can keep on giving long after you are just a memory. Tom thinks that blogs can serve the same purpose of chronicling ordinary lives that those 1940s diaries did.
I do too. But I suggest that once a year, or more often, a detailed chronicle of a single day, however boring that might seem, will prove to be endlessly interesting a few decades or more into the future. We all are living extraordinary lives.
George Weigel, the biographer of Pope John Paul II, in Light in the New Dark Age about Benedict XVI - the name is the program, and the name is the man.
Benedict XVI has long been concerned that the West risks the possibility of a new Dark Age. What he described in a sermon on the day before his election as a new "dictatorship of relativism" is one dimension of the problem. If there is only "your truth" and "my truth" and nothing that we understand as "the truth," then on what principled basis is the West to defend its greatest accomplishments: equality before the law, tolerance and civility, religious freedom and the rights of conscience, democratic self-governance? If the only measure of us is us, isn't the horizon of our aspiration greatly foreshortened? (And if you want to see what that kind of metaphysical and spiritual boredom can do to a once-great civilization, look around Western Europe, where self-absorption and a stubborn resistance to saying that anything is "true" has led a continent to the brink of demographic suicide.)
Pope Benedict also senses that a new Dark Age may be aborning in those laboratories where human begetting is turned into human manufacture -- the Dark Age of Huxley's brave new world. So just as we can expect the new pope to champion a revitalization of Christian faith and practice in Europe as the necessary condition for the rejuvenation of the public life of the West, so we can expect him to be, like his predecessor, a global champion of the dignity and worth of human life from conception until natural death.
UPDATE: A good example of the metaphysical boredom Weigel speaks about is this story of a German woman who gave birth in a gallery in front of dozens of spectators as part of an art exhibition. Gallery owner Novak said, "It a bit of test to see if society can cope."
Betsy Devine found a personal legacy archives - her grandfather's letters. She excerpts from the a series of letters he wrote to his newborn grandson in 1918 .
HT Dave Weinberger at Joho the Blog
First, there's Gordon Moore, Intel co-founder and originator of Moore's Law as defined in webopedia.
that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since the integrated circuit was invented. Moore predicted that this trend would continue for the foreseeable future. In subsequent years, the pace slowed down a bit, but data density has doubled approximately every 18 months, and this is the current definition of Moore's Law, which Moore himself has blessed. Most experts, including Moore himself, expect Moore's Law to hold for at least another two decades.
Then there's David Clarke who kept the original copy of the April 1965 copy of Electronics Magazine in which Moore's law was first published, some 40 years ago and won for himself $10,000 offered by Intel.
Seems as if Mr. Clarke is "a bit of a hoarder" who rescued several hundreds of magazines as they were being thrown out and squirreled them under his floorboards.
"I was in my 20s at the time and thought you shouldn't throw them out because they are recording the golden age of electronics."
Those of us who are concerned about the state of society and culture these days may or may not be believers. So what's been amazing in these past few weeks has been the attention paid to the death of John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI by Catholics, non-Catholics and non believers alike. Some have knee-jerk reactions to people of faith as being somehow intellectually inferior in comparison to their superior rational selves. For many, it was the first time they have really heard from many theologians all over the airwaves a coherent philosophy of life that was at once intellectually consistent and lucid. For others it was the cooling, calming, mysterious spiritual atmosphere contrasting so strongly with scandal trials on the tube, the poisonous squabbling and pointless dithering in the Congress.
We are facing unknown territories and grave ethical issues in our growing older society with extraordinary medical and technological advances. I have great hope that Pope Benedict will elevate the debate as we, as a society, consider the future we want to create.
I am not a Catholic, nor socially conservative. Yet it seems to me that in our society there are few, if any, authoritative voices that are willing to defend certain traditional values such as the family and the sanctity of life. The Catholic Church under media pope John Paul II has been able to keep a number of important debates alive, benefiting Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In some instances the Vatican's positions were necessary and legitimate, in others they were outdated and forgettable.
The demise of western society will not be brought on by Islamists, global warming or economic disaster. The erosion of certain core values - ironically brought on by the West’s ultimate engine, capitalism - is the absolute front-runner to undo what western democracies have achieved over the past centuries. With that in mind, I welcome the election of Joseph Ratzinger as the new pope.
He quotes Michael Novak on Pope Benedict's view of culture of relativism.
On the basis of relativism, however, no culture can long defend itself or justify its own values. If everything is relative, even tolerance is only a subjective choice, not an objective mandatory value. Ironically, though, what post-moderns call "tolerance" is actually radically intolerant of any view contrary to its own.
The culture of relativism invites its own destruction, both by its own internal incoherence and by its defenselessness against cultures of faith. This is the bleak fate that Cardinal Ratzinger already sees looming before Europe.
I was thrilled to read Cardinal Ratizinger's homily just before the papal conclave met for the first time. I know of no one else who has described so clearly the culture of relativism and what it portends.
How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. . . . The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves--thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14). Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and "swept along by every wind of teaching," looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires.
The trouble with my computer began when I tried to post twice about Ronni Bennett's piece on (Extra)ordinary Lives because it rang so true and she said it so well.
Now that I'm back online and brimming with posts, let me do this one first.
Let's say this all together now: No lives are ordinary.
Even if you “only” got married, raised children and tended the backyard garden, you have stories to tell. You especially have stories your children, grandchildren and beyond will care about. Everyone wants to know who and where they came from and what those people were like, how they lived, what they did. That’s why so many adoptees seek out their birth parents and why genealogy is popular: We all struggle to know ourselves and a large part of doing that is in knowing our family pasts.....
What those people wanted to know was what a big-time movie star does with herself when she’s not making movies. That’s what the best entertainment profiles deliver - a peek into the celebrity’s private life...
...and it is also what your descendants will want to know about you. You are part of them; your blood flows in their veins; your genes will inform their appearance, behavior, perhaps even their interests and passions.
The smallest things can make interesting stories....
Your stories also become a record of life in general – modern to us now – that will, a generation or two hence, contain curiosities and puzzlements.
Everyone has dozens of stories, large and small, happy and sad, funny and painful, that shouldn’t be lost because you think your life is ordinary. It is not. Your stories will bring alive times past for your descendants and enrich their lives by knowing the family stories of their ancestors (that’s you someday).
So let’s say it together one more time: No lives are ordinary.
Everyone has wonderful stories. Everyone should have a personal legacy archives just brimming with personal and family stories. It's fun to do. It's how you can be creative. Think of your stories as presents you can give to the people you love and, at the same time, save them for posterity.
A young Israeli, Guy Akrish, was only 17 years old when he died in a car crash. His family erected this mobile phone tombstone "because Guy so much enjoyed talking on the phone," according to Unwired News.
His epitaph? "Hello, this is Guy, how are you doing?"
HT: Roger Simon
Jill would like to announce that due to some technical difficulties she will be unable to post for a short spell. The problems are being worked on and with luck Jill will be back "on the air" by next weekend.
I will update this post in the event this changes.
Indian farmer registers his will giving his body to wild animals.
I, New World Laldingliana, have decided to give my body to wild animals when my life on earth is over to show that I had given my life for them.
One of my greatest wishes is to throw a feast for the wild animals in Phawngpui forest with my own body. As such, I have made my will without any coercion or motivation from anyone.
Attorney Rita Marker clarifies many misconceptions about living wills and the traps for the unwary in Be Prepared.
The most protective and the most flexible type of advance directive is the "Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care." With this type of document you designate someone else to make health-care decisions on your behalf if you are ever temporarily or permanently unable to make those decisions for yourself. The person you name is usually called an agent, although some states call this individual a health-care proxy, health-care representative or health-care surrogate.
When you are able to make your own decisions, it is the responsibility of your health-care providers to let your know your diagnosis, to give you information about possible treatments, as well as the risks and benefits associated with those treatments. Then, it is up to you to give or withhold consent based on that information. If you have named an agent to make decisions for you that person stands in your shoes. The doctor gives your agent the same information that would have been given to you and then, based on prior discussions you and your agent have had and with the knowledge of your values, your agent gives or withholds consent for treatment.
You can, but need not, name a family member as your agent. In addition to selecting an agent who agrees with you, it is important that that person has the ability to be assertive when necessary. He should be a person who will be open to receiving necessary information and who will not be intimidated by a physician or ethics committee who may hold different views. .
Because the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is a legal document, it is important that you have one that is carefully drafted. It is not necessary, advisable, or even possible to write everything down about your wishes. There is no way you can envision every possible condition, treatment, or situation you could face at any time. The most important thing is to maintain communication with your agent about your wishes as they change from time to time. (Sometimes what we want now may be different than what we wanted five years ago.)
Want to know where your ancestors came from? Your family tree only go back so far. Now tracing your family lineage back 10,000 years is possible, amazing as that sounds.
IBM and the National Geographic have begun assembling a massive genetic database called the Genographic Project. You can participate in the project according to the Wall St Journal today in Project Hopes to Trace Your Ancestors Back 10,000 years (subscription only) and have your DNA analyzed for ancestral origins.
For $99.95, you may be able to see what path your ancestors took on their migration to their eventual home. The trick lies in persistent markers left in DNA from generation to generation.
If you want to participate, National Geographic will mail you a kit containing two swabs and a pair of plastic vials. You just scrape some cells off the inner wall of cheek, mail them back and start to check in on the Web to see just where you are in the human family tree and at the same time contribute to the sample.
It's being called a Landmark Study of the Human Journey. Here's the National Geographic site for The Genographic Project.
Joan Kennedy is not very pleased with her children who became her legal guardians last year to see that she received treatment for alcoholism and to take care of her financial affairs. In retaliation, she put up for sale her summer house on Squaw Island for $6.5 million. Her children object to the sale and it is unlikely the house will be sold given the cloud on the title.
The battle of children to retain control over one or another parent or elderly relative is on the rise with no end in sight. Half the guardianship cases heard in Barnstable Family and Probate Court were filed by family or friends seeking control over another adult's life according to the Cape Cod Times.
The most difficult cases where the prospective ward contests the proposed guardianship usually involve substance abuse - drugs or alcohol. I have nothing but sympathy for these families dealing with such difficult issues; however, I can not help but believe that advance planning in the form of a durable power of attorney would have saved these families a lot of grief.
Video tombstones via the book of joe, Robert Barrows has a patent pending for a weatherproofed, hollowed -out headstone to house a microchip and a flat-screen TV where the deceased can record messages before they die, to be played, presumably whenever a person walks through the cemetery with the right remote control.
If the person doesn't make his wishes known in advance, any one of his relatives could make the tape for the "video-enhanced grave markers", costing $4000 or more.
You know how much I believe that people should create a personal legacy archives with their life stories and thoughts to send into the future, but PLEASE no video tombstones. If I want to go to a cemetery, to reflect on the mysteries of life and death, I certainly don't want to see a whole lot of flat-screen TVs to attract a whole new sort of grave robbers.
Just the elevator pitch. Name, dates of birth and death, a well-chosen quotation or epitaph.
Now that spring has finally arrived I'm about to conduct a rare field trip to the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Mass, where lie the remains of Henry Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson. The sacrilege not far away is
Sheila Shea's headstone on which is engraved, "Who the hell is Sheila Shea" No doubt someone thought this was funny and irreverent, just like Sheila. Well, irreverence is momentary, death is eternal, and no doubt poor Sheila Shea will be cursed for her rudeness for as long as her tombstone stands. That's no way to be dead.
Thomas Lynch, a funeral director for 40 years has an amazing op ed piece in Sunday's New York Times, Our Near Death Experience.
For many bereaved Americans, the "celebration of life" involves a guest list open to everyone except the actual corpse, which is often dismissed, disappeared without rubric or witness, buried or burned, out of sight, out of mind, by paid functionaries like me. So the visible presence of the pope's body at the pope's wake and funeral strikes many as an oddity, a quaint relic.
[O]urs is a species that down the millenniums has learned to deal with death (the idea of the thing) by dealing with the dead (the thing itself) in all the flesh and frailty of the human condition. We process grief by processing the objects of our grief, the bodies of the dead, from one place to the next. .... We commit and commend them into the nothingness or somethingness, into the presence of God or God's absence. Whatever afterlife there is or isn't, human beings have marked their ceasing to be by going to the tomb or the fire or the grave, the holy tree or deep sea, whatever sacred space of oblivion to which we consign our dead. Humans have been doing this for 40,000 years.
I've been doing funerals for almost 40.
Late in the last century more homegrown doxologies became more popular. We boomers, vexed by the elder metaphors of grief and death, wanted to create our own. Everyone was into the available "choices."
For many Americans, however, that wheel is not just broken but off track or in need of reinvention. The loosened ties of faith and family, of religious and ethnic identity, have left them ritually adrift, bereft of custom, symbol, metaphor and meaningful liturgy or language. ...
Many Americans are now spiritual tourists without home places or core beliefs to return to.
INSTEAD of dead Methodists or Muslims, we are now dead golfers or gardeners, bikers or bowlers. The bereaved are not so much family and friends or fellow believers as like-minded hobbyists or enthusiasts. And I have become less the funeral director and more the memorial caddy of sorts, getting the dead out of the way and the living assembled for a memorial "event" that is neither sacred nor secular but increasingly absurd - a triumph of accessories over essentials, stuff over substance, theme over theology. The genuine dead are downsized or disappeared or turned into knickknacks in a kind of funereal karaoke - bodiless obsequies where the finger food is good, the music transcendent, the talk determinedly "life affirming," the accouterments all purposefully cheering and inclusive and where someone can be counted on to declare "closure" just before the merlot runs out. We leave these events with the increasing sense that something is missing.
Just as he showed us something about suffering and sickness and dying in his last days alive, in death Pope John Paul II showed us something about grieving and taking our leave. The good death, good grief, good funerals come from keeping the vigils, from bearing our burdens honorably, from honest witness and remembrance. They come from going the distance with the ones we love.
I think as boomers age, there's going to be a great new Awakening in this country. For all the narcissism and materialism of the 80s and 90s, the foundational experience of the generation was spiritual. By the time you hit your fifties, you're not so interested in the cutting edge, but the shape of the knife, then all the uses to which it can put, finally, its purpose. There's an enormous appetite for purpose and meaning. Boomers have spent countless hundreds of hours, in their college years and later, sitting stoned, talking about love and meaning. From middle-age, you don't care about bold and shocking, you want deep. I think there's going to be an extraordinary efflorescence of personal creativity, as boomers resort to digital tools to tell the stories of their lives.
Ronni Bennett calls them Stories for the Infinite Future in a must-read post how we ordinary people can create what only kings and queens could afford in the past.
I have left with the other papers my friend will need, a final blog to be posted. Yes, it begins with, “If you’re reading this, I am dead,” though I intend to update it every six months or so and I may be able, in time, to get more creative than that.
I’ve also left instructions to set aside money to pay my blog host for at least a year after I die, along with other instructions for downloading my blog onto CDs (or whatever storage medium has evolved by then) to give to anyone who cares to have it.
Imagine if you had such a record from your grandparents, great grandparents and even further back what a gift that would be. Now it can be so into an infinite future.
Putting your digital assets in a form that can be used and enjoyed into the future not only benefits you in their creation by adding in a deeper way your meaning, your purpose but your descendants into the infinite future. That's what the Protected E-Vault is all about. It's because Legacy Matters.
The moral and ethical dilemmas which have arisen from our dramatic improvements in emergency care go straight to the heart of what it means to be human, to be alive, to have meaning and quality in life. If one must use a pigeonhole, I would certainly be classified as a pro-life proponent. Life is perhaps the most precious gift given by our Creator, and cannot simply be measured by a superficial standard such as health, mobility, or even lucid mentation. Yet life is a gift, and not a god. As I have written in Dancing with Death, dying itself is also an integral part of life, and irrational and misguided attempts to prolong it can be very destructive, demeaning, and degrading to its dignity.
He has some very useful guideposts.
• Life is more than any of its components.
• When the individual's outlook from a life-threatening acute or chronic illness is optimistic, or at least reasonably uncertain, we should choose to preserve life.
• Those who have lost all functioning mental, social, and relational abilities, but whose underlying condition is not a threat to life (e.g., persistent vegetative state), should be sustained with basic care and life support.
• Patient and family input on end of life decisions is vital, but not absolute.
What he alludes at the end is something I've been meaning to write about. If you believe as I do that mankind is continually evolving towards a greater, more cosmic consciousness, than you must wonder what purpose is served by people in "persistent vegetative states." The doctor quotes one reader who said,
in expecting us to care for and continue to love those who no longer have the capacity to give anything in return, God invites us to pick up the cross. It’s not really about them anymore, it’s about us and what we are willing to give of ourselves in response to the challenge. I have watched hours of coverage regarding the Schiavo controversy; not once has anyone suggested that Terri’s suffering presents an opportunity for her family to give of itself purely…
I agree with this reader, but fear that too many people are put off by the idea of carrying any cross, a symbol once readily understood, now off-putting to too many. Their thinking is narcissistic - what would I do, what would I want. They never ask, what can I learn from this, how can I grow from this. Thinking only of themselves, they fail to grasp the interdependence, the interpenetration of all life.
Perhaps, the "purpose" of the totally dependent is to expand the consciousness of their loved ones, those around them. I've spent some time reading stories of the people who do care for their family members who are profoundly disabled. A few can not bear it and leave. Many express an enormous sense of personal and spiritual growth. These are the ordinary people who make life on this earth better, not just by their acts, but by the greater spiritual energies they possess, affecting all of us for the better.
Boomers beware. It takes little effort to decide an elderly grandmother doesn't have a quality of life worth living in the eyes of their too pressed, stressed and greedy children or grandchildren. It's easier, more convenient for all concerned. In terms of the universe, it's weak.
It takes strong souls and stout hearts to continue to care for someone who doesn't recognize them anymore and who is difficult and cranky. But what an opportunity to make love, to create love, to add to the loving energies of the universe. These are the people I want to spend the future with.
Those of us who are worried about the rush to euthanize now have the case of Mae Magouirk to show us how right we were to worry.
Another woman, 81, lies in a hospice without food or water since March 28. Another family dispute - this time between Mae's granddaughter and Mae's brother and sister. Brother and sister want a temporary feeding tube inserted and Mae evaluated for treatment at the University of Alabama Medical Center. Granddaughter, Gaddy, has been appointed emergency guardian and has stated.
"Grandmama is old and I think it is time she went home to Jesus. She has glaucoma and now this heart problem, and who would want to live with disabilities like these?
At a follow-up hearing in Troup County Probate Court, a settlement has been reached that allows awards guardianship to the granddaughter Gaddy provided three cardiologists evaluate the patient who would receive whatever treatment two of the three recommended.
Mae has a living will that states nourishment is to be withheld only if she were in a coma or vegetative state with no hope of recovery. Apparently, she did not have a health care proxy
Is this woman is being denied food and water even as the evaluation is going on? I don't know. Her granddaughter testified according to the local paper linked above that she feeds her grandmother Jello and chips of ice.
Is this case part of the hurry up and die syndrome? I don't know but I will follow it. I'm afraid we'll see many more of these cases, some genuinely a dispute over what the patient wanted, others with far more base motives. I don't think "quality of life" is the standard. None of us know with appreciation we can live even if from the outside the "quality" seems poor or what we would endure for just a little more life. I am reminded of the Zen strawberry story
One day while walking through the wilderness a man stumbled upon a vicious tiger. He ran but soon came to the edge of a high cliff. Desperate to save himself, he climbed down a vine and dangled over the fatal precipice. As he hung there, two mice appeared from a hole in the cliff and began gnawing on the vine. Suddenly, he noticed on the vine a plump wild strawberry. He plucked it and popped it in his mouth. It was incredibly delicious!
Wizbang has a number of links and continually updates Mae's story.
Hyscience has a long and excellent post that asks whether hospices are enabling euthanasia.
UPDATE: On Friday, the three doctors determined that Mae's heart condition was treatable. She
was airlifted to the University of Alabama Medical Center. Her nephew Kenneth Mullinax of Birmingham is quoted as saying, "Hospice is only for the dying and my aunt has many more years to live. A crime was being committed by having a person in a hospice who was not terminally ill. I hope that this never ever happens again."
The questions that remain are
1. Why was she in a hospice?
2. Why did her doctor order her feeding tube removed?
3. Why did neither her doctor or her granddaughter abide by the conditions listed in Mae's living will?
John Paul the Great - a title won first by popular acclamation - was born on the day of a solar eclipse, May 18, 1920 and buried on the day of another solar eclipse, April 8, 2005. The prophecy of the Irish St Malachy from the 12th century, which could be a forgery, still seems eerily prescient. The characteristic foreseen for this Pope was "de Labore Solaris"
From around the world, millions came in a modern day pilgrimage to pay their last respects to their beloved Pope, their fisherman whose shoes were a jaunty Italian leather, whose parish covered the globe where all are children of the same God.
What beauty and magnificence there was in the funeral mass, in the ancient chants and heavenly music, in the outpouring of love, in the litany of the saints and the incense burning before red-robed cardinals, before the heads of state of 70 nations, before kings and queens, and the millions gathered in the Square and around the world.
Flags, applause, Santo Subito, mighty winds, and a final beautiful requiem by Leo Wong of which the image below is only a small part.
He showed us how to live. He showed us how to die. On his deathbed, he said,
Do not weep. I am happy, and you should be as well, let us pray together with joy.
He even showed us how to leave a spiritual or ethical will, reviewed and revised over many years.
"Watch, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming" (cf. Matt 24:42) -- these words remind me of the last call, which will occur at the moment the Lord wills it. I want to follow Him and I want all that forms part of my earthly life to prepare me for this moment...
I thank all. I ask all for forgiveness. I also ask for prayer, so that God's Mercy will show itself greater than my weakness and unworthiness....
I do not leave behind me any property which will be necessary to dispose of. Insofar as the things of daily use that served me, I request that they be distributed as will seem opportune. My personal notes should be burned.....
After my death, I ask for Holy Masses and prayers ...
Today I only want to add this to it, that everyone should have present the prospect of death...
For full text, click continue reading.
John Paul II's Last Will and Testament
"I Hope That Christ Will Give Me the Grace for the Last Passage"
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 7, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II's last will and testament, published today by the Holy See.
* * *
The Testament of 6.3.1979
(and the subsequent addition)
"Totus Tuus ego sum"
In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity. Amen.
"Watch, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming" (cf. Matt 24:42) -- these words remind me of the last call, which will occur at the moment the Lord wills it. I want to follow Him and I want all that forms part of my earthly life to prepare me for this moment. I do not know when it will occur, but like everything, I also place this moment in the hands of the Mother of my Master: 'Totus Tuus.' I leave everything in the same maternal hands, and all those who have been connected to my life and my vocation. Above all, I leave the Church in these hands, and also my Nation and the whole of humanity. I thank all. I ask all for forgiveness. I also ask for prayer, so that God's Mercy will show itself greater than my weakness and unworthiness.
During the Spiritual Exercises I reread the testament of the Holy Father Paul VI. This reading has led me to write the present testament.
I do not leave behind me any property which will be necessary to dispose of. Insofar as the things of daily use that served me, I request that they be distributed as will seem opportune. My personal notes should be burned. I request that Don Stanislaw watch over this, whom I thank for his very prolonged and comprehensive collaboration and help throughout the years. All other thanks instead I leave in my heart before God himself, because it is difficult to express them.
In regard to the funeral, I repeat the same dispositions which were given by the Holy Father Paul VI [here he notes on the margin: grave in the earth, not in a sarcophagus, 13.3.92].
"apud Dominum misericordia
et copiosa apud Eum redemptio"
John Paul pp. II
After my death, I ask for Holy Masses and prayers
* * *
I express my profound trust that, despite all my weakness, the Lord will grant me every necessary grace to face, according to his will, any task, trial and suffering that he might require of His servant in the course of life. I also trust that he will never permit that, through some attitude of mine: words, works or omissions, I betray my obligations in this Holy Petrine See.
* * *
24.II -- 1.III.1980
Also during these Spiritual Exercises I reflected on the truth of the Priesthood of Christ in the perspective of that Transit that for each one of us is the moment of our own death. Eloquent sign [addition above: decisive] for us when taking leave of this world -- to be born in the other, the future world -- is the Resurrection of Christ.
I have read therefore the registration of my testament of last year, also made during the Spiritual Exercises -- I have compared it to the testament of my great Predecessor and Father Paul VI, with that sublime testimony on the death of a Christian and a Pope -- and I have renewed in myself the awareness of the questions, to which the registration of the 6.III.1979 refers, prepared by me (in a rather provisional way).
Today I only want to add this to it, that everyone should have present the prospect of death. And must be ready to present himself before the Lord and Judge -- and, contemporaneously, Redeemer and Father. I also take this into consideration continually, entrusting that decisive moment to the Mother of Christ and of the Church -- to the Mother of my hope.
The times, in which we live, are unspeakably difficult and disquieting. The way of the Church has also become difficult and tense, characteristic trial of these times -- both for the Faithful as well as for the Pastors. In some countries (as for example in the one I read about during the Spiritual Exercises), the Church finds herself in such a period of persecution that is not inferior to that of the first centuries, rather it exceeds them by the degree of ruthlessness and hatred. "Sanguis martyrum -- semen christianorum." And in addition to this -- so many people die innocently, also in this country in which we live ...
I desire once again to commend myself totally to the Lord's grace. He himself will decide when and how I must finish my earthly life and pastoral ministry. "Totus Tuus" through the Immaculate in life and in death. Accepting this death already now, I hope that Christ will give me the grace for the last passage, that is [my] Pasch. I hope that he will render it useful also for this most important cause which I seek to serve: the salvation of men, the safeguarding of the human family, and in it of all the nations and peoples (among them I also turn in a particular way to my earthly Homeland), useful for the persons he has entrusted to me in a particular way, for the issues of the Church, for the glory of God himself.
I do not wish to add anything to what I wrote a year ago -- only to express this readiness and contemporaneously this trust, to which the present Spiritual Exercises have again disposed me.
John Paul II
* * *
"Totus Tuus ego sum"
In the course of this year's Spiritual Exercises I read (several times) the text of the testament of 6.III.1979. Although I still consider it as provisional (not definitive), I leave it in the form it exists. I do not change (for now) anything, nor do I add anything in regard to the dispositions contained in it.
The attempt on my life on 13.V.1981 in some way has confirmed the accuracy of the words written in the period of the Spiritual Exercises of 1980 (24.II -- 1.III)
I feel that much more profoundly that I am totally in God's Hands -- and I remain continually at the disposition of my Lord, entrusting myself to Him in His Immaculate Mother ("Totus Tuus")
John Paul II
* * *
In connection with the last phrase of my testament of 6.III 1979 (: "On the place/ the place, that is, of the funeral/ the College of Cardinals and my fellow countrymen should decide") -- I clarify what I have in mind: the Metropolitan of Krakow and the General Council of the Episcopate of Poland -- I request the College of Cardinals in the meantime to satisfy insofar as possible the eventual questions of its members.
* * *
1.III.1985 (in the course of the Spiritual Exercises).
Now -- in regard to the expression "College of Cardinals and my fellow countrymen": the "College of Cardinals" has no obligation to question "my fellow countrymen" on this argument; it can however do so, if for some reason it considers it legitimate.
The Spiritual Exercises of the Jubilee Year 2000
[for the testament]
1. When on the day of October 16, 1978, the conclave of Cardinals elected John Paul II, the Primate of Poland, Card. Stefan Wyszynski said to me: "The task of the new Pope will be to lead the Church into the Third Millennium." I do not know if I repeat the phrase exactly, but at least such was the sense of what he then felt. It was said by the Man who has passed into history as Primate of the Millennium. A great Primate. I was a witness of his mission, of his total trust. Of his struggles: of his victory. "Victory, when it occurs, will be a victory through Mary" -- these words of his Predecessor, Card. August Hlond, the Primate of the Millennium used to repeat.
In this way I was in some manner prepared for the task that the day October 16, 1978, presented before me. In the moment in which I write these words, Jubilee Year of 2000, it is already a reality in progress. The night of December 24, 1999, the symbolic Door of the Great Jubilee was opened in St. Peter's Basilica, later that of St. John Lateran, then of St. Mary Major -- on New Year's Day, and the day of January 19 the Door of the Basilica of St. Paul "Outside the Walls." This last event, because of its ecumenical character, has remained imprinted in my memory in a particular way.
2. As the Jubilee Year 2000 goes forward, from day to day the 20th century closes behind us and the 21st century opens. According to the plans of Providence, it was given to me to live in the difficult century that is going into the past, and now in the year in which the age of my life reaches eighty years ("octogesima adveniens"), one must ask oneself if it is not the time to repeat with the biblical Simeon "Nunc dimittis."
On the day of May 13, 1981, the day of the attempt on the Pope during the General Audience in St. Peter's Square, Divine Providence saved me in a miraculous way from death. He who is the sole Lord of life and death, He himself prolonged this life, in a certain way he has given it to me again. From this moment it again belongs even more to Him. I hope He will help me to recognize how long I must continue this service, to which he called me on the day of October 16, 1978. I ask him to call me when He himself wills it. "In life and in death we belong to the Lord ... we are the Lord's" (cf. Rm 14:8). I also hope that so long as it is given to me to carry out the Petrine service in the Church, the Mercy of God will give me the necessary strength for this service.
3. As every year during the Spiritual Exercises I have read my testament of 6.III.1979. I continue to hold the dispositions contained in it. That which now, and also during the subsequent Spiritual Exercises, has been added is a reflection of the difficult and tense general situation, which has marked the '80s. Since autumn of the year 1989 this situation has changed. The last decade of the last century was free from the preceding tensions; this does not mean that it did not bring with it new problems and difficulties. In a particular way may Divine Providence be praised for this, that the period of the so-called "Cold War" finished without violent nuclear conflict, which danger weighed on the world in the preceding period.
4. Being on the threshold of the Third Millennium "in medio Ecclesiae," I wish once again to express gratitude to the Holy Spirit for the great gift of Vatican Council II, to which together with the whole Church -- and above all with the entire episcopate -- I feel indebted. I am convinced that once again and for a long time it will be given to the new generations to draw from the riches that this Council of the 20th century has lavished. As a Bishop who has participated in the conciliar event from the first to the last day, I wish to entrust this great treasure to all those who are or will be in the future called to realize it. For my part, I thank the eternal Pastor who allowed me to serve this great cause in the course of all the years of my pontificate.
"In medio Ecclesiae" ... from the first years of episcopal service -- precisely thanks to the Council -- it was given to me to experience the fraternal communion of the Episcopate. As priest of the Archdiocese of Krakow I experienced the fraternal communion of the presbytery -- the Council opened a new dimension of this experience.
5. How many people I would have to list! The Lord has probably called the majority of them to himself -- as regards those who are still on this side, may the words of this testament remind them, all and everywhere, wherever they find themselves.
In the course of more than twenty years in which I have carried out the Petrine service "in medio Ecclesiae" I have experienced the benevolent and extremely fruitful collaboration of so many Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, so many priests, so many consecrated persons -- Brothers and Sisters -- in short, of so many lay persons, in the curial environment, in the Vicariate of the Diocese of Rome, as well as outside these environments.
How can I no willingly embrace all the Episcopates of the world, with which I met in the succession of visits "ad limina Apostolorum!" How can I not also remember so many Christian Brothers -- not Catholics! And the Rabbi of Rome and the numerous representatives of non-Christian religions! And the many representatives of the world of culture, science, politics, the means of social communications!
6. In the measure that the end of my earthly life approaches I return to the memory of the beginning, of my Parents, my Brother and my Sister (whom I did not know because she died before my birth), to the parish of Wadowice, where I was baptized, to that city of my love, of my contemporaries, girl and boy companions of elementary school, the junior high school, the university, until the times of the Occupation, when I worked as a laborer, and later on in the parish of Niegowic, Krakow's of St. Florian, to the pastoral care of academics, the environment ... to all environments ... to Krakow and to Rome ... to persons who in a special way were entrusted to me by the Lord.
To all I wish to say one thing: "May God reward you"
"In manus Tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum"
What do you mean about the Soul? How does it differ from the spirit? Beliefnet brings a Multifaith Round-up: Views of the Soul.
It's a most interesting look at the world's religious and spiritual traditions mean when they talk about the soul and its fate is at the end of life.
Roger Cohen, a reporter for the International Herald Tribune, tells a family story about Pope John Paul II when he was a seminary student in Poland and the Jewish girl he saved.
Edith Zierer was 13 years old when she emerged from a Nazi labor camp on the verge of death, scarcely able to walk.
Death was approaching, but a young man approached first, "very good looking," as she recalled, and vigorous. He wore a long robe and appeared to be a priest. "Why are you here?" he asked. "What are you doing?" Edith said she was trying to get to Krakow to find her parents.
The man disappeared. He came back with a cup of tea. Edith drank. He said he could help her get to Krakow. Again the mysterious benefactor went away, returning with bread and cheese. They talked about the advancing Soviet Army. Edith said she believed that her parents and younger sister, Judith, were alive.
"Try to stand," the man said. Edith tried and failed. He carried her to another village, where he put her in the cattle car of a train bound for Krakow. Another family was there. The man got in beside Edith, covered her with his cloak and made a small fire.
Edith fled from Karol Wojtyla when they arrived at Krakow in 1945. The family on the train, also Jews, had warned her that he might take her off to "the cloisters." She recalls him calling out, "Edyta, Edyta!" - the Polish form of her name - as she hid behind large containers of milk.
But hiding was not forgetting. She wrote his name in a diary, her savior, and in 1978, when she read in a copy of Paris-Match that he had become pope, she broke into tears
Gilbert Levine, the Pope's musical advisor, talks with NPR's Fred Child "about some of the music the Pontiff used to convey his thoughts about God and humanity". You can listen here
Karol Wojtla commissioned Polish composer Henryk Gorecki to compose "Beatus vir". Shortly thereafter, Wojtyla was elected Pope and Gorecki dedicated the work to the new Pope on his first return to Poland in June of 1979.
Some years ago, a prominent national political commentator who is not a Christian said to me, "You know, in 1978 I could have cared less who the next pope would be. Now it means something to me personally." I suspect my friend’s sentiments are replicated in hundreds of millions of hearts and minds throughout the world. The papacy has traditionally claimed a global role; the pontificate of John Paul II has given specific meaning and empirical texture to that claim. The cardinals who will elect the next pope know this. And as they ponder the implications of that remarkable fact, they will know something else: they will know that, in an important sense, they will be electing a pope for the world as well as for the Church.
The papacy now matters to virtually everyone. It matters to those for whom it represents the center of the divinely-mandated ordering of Christ’s Church. It matters to those for whom the papacy represents a global focal point of Christian unity and witness. It matters to those for whom the pope is a defender of universal human rights with a global platform. It matters, if in a rather different way, to those Chinese, Cuban, Vietnamese, and North Korean totalitarians who fear the capacity of the Catholic Church to inspire liberation movements, as it has done during this pontificate in east central Europe, Latin America, and East Asia. And it matters to those who deplore the Catholic Church and its moral teaching as perhaps the last great institutional barrier to the triumph of a utilitarian ethic and the advance of what some genetics researchers unblushingly call the "immortality project."1 Voltaire would be spinning in his grave at the thought of the papacy as a defender of the "rights of man;" and I rather doubt that Huxley imagined the papacy as a counterweight to the evolution of the brave new world. Yet precisely such hopes – and fears – may be found throughout the world today, in this twenty-seventh year of the pontificate of John Paul II. All conclaves are, by definition, "unprecedented." But those hopes and fears will help make the conclave that elects John Paul’s successor an unprecedented one in a distinctive way.
Shortly before Terri Schiavo died, both CBS and ABC published polls that showed 68% of Americans were "in favor of letting Terri Schiavo die..."
Pat Cadell, a leading Democratic pollster, an expert on the use and abuse of polls, said essentially this poll was designed to achieve a certain result.
But what's being presented in these polls, particularly with CBS when it's so disturbing to me because it's being cited everywhere, and it's not being cited accurately. .......
only once [before], --have I seen a survey that made me wonder whether or not the results were prejudged before they were written. This poll is so basically designed to produce certain results, and then is being reported as such, makes me very concerned. Now it could be just pure incompetence, however I suspect that there's more here than that.
The Anchoress paraphased the questions CBS asked:
""Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegatative state, and has been for 15 years, she is in a coma and will never recover, should she be taken off life support?"
Well...sure...you ask a question like that...you'll get a number like 68% saying, "yes, let the poor woman die..."
A Zogby poll rephrased the question more accurately,
"If a disabled person is not terminally ill, not in a coma, and not being kept alive on life support, and they have no written directive, should or should they not be denied food and water,"
The response to the Zogby poll: 79% said the patient should not have food and water taken away while just 9% said yes.
Let me know if you hear this reported anywhere but in blogs.
Hat tip The Anchoress
You may have heard about the three secrets of Fatima, but still don't what they were yet the three secrets entwined the great events of the 20th century.
A clear explanation and their connection to John Paul the Great can be found here in an essay by Paul Kengor who calls the death of the Pope, the end of the 20th century and the bridge to the next.
The battle against atheistic Soviet Communism was the battle of the last century, commencing in 1917 and finishing in 1991. The moral battle of the next century will be the fight for the dignity of human life. John Paul II helped us win the last, and has left us words of wisdom, a coherent philosophy, and an example, to guide us in our new fight.
Varifrank has an extraordinary post up called Robert the Counter. He asks the question can one man make a difference. But, more than that, he writes about how each of our lives is also affected by the choices of others.
It's a must read all the way to end. I was tremendously moved.
One man does make a difference. You make a difference with your lives and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There is a simple majesty to be found in every day life and you are a part of it whether you believe it or not.
Worthy to be called the Great, he showed us how to be unafraid and how to die with true dignity.
How fortunate we all are to have had such a luminous example of a life of faith whose courage and convictions withstood Nazism, Communism and later day materialism. He showed us how forgiveness can enhance our lives, how suffering can lead us to discover our true humanity.
I've traveling so can not post easily or reflect now, but I will anon.
George Neumayr says we already at the bottom of the slippery slope, and no matter how we say we're compassionate and they consented, we could be looking at the "humane holocaust."
That's what Malcolm Muggeridge wrote about "a culture that kills the weak, from deaf unborn children to mute disabled women, and calls it mercy.".
In the humane holocaust, murdering undesirable unborn babies at the beginning of life, the elderly at the end of it, and the disabled in between, forms the final solution in the quest for the perfect, burden-free society. In the humane holocaust, one generation's crimes become another generation's compassion.
There's a chilling quote from Leo Alexander, a doctor who assisted the chief American counsel at the Nuremberg Tribunal about the beginnings of Nazi society.
Whatever proportion these crimes finally assumed, it became evident to all who investigated them that they had started from small beginnings. The beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitudes of the physicians. It started with the acceptance of the attitude, basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as life not worthy to be lived. This attitude in its early stages concerned itself merely with the severely and chronically sick. Gradually, the sphere of those to be included in this category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted, the racially unwanted, and finally all non-Germans. But it is important to realize that the infinitely small wedged-in lever from which the entire trend of mind received its impetus was the attitude towards the non-rehabilitative sick.
Saddened by the spectacle Terri's death became, horrified by the manner of her dying where the judge forbade even ice chips to ease her suffering, I haven't reflected sufficiently on her legacy to write about, so I offer you these links.
THE DEATH yesterday of Terri Schiavo concludes a legal battle, but its moral quandaries live on. The Schiavo case gripped the nation because of the lines drawn between life and death, and the middle ground of dementia or coma, agonizingly hard areas to delineate. In addition, because of a mute understanding that this subject is too awful to contemplate, a discussion of Schiavo-like choices has not fully penetrated the public square. It will be a healthy thing if this taboo is permanently shattered. We may not want to discuss death, but it will come to all of us. And, because of medical technology, more people will be empowered, or perhaps some would say condemned, to make judgments about when life is worth living, and when not.
A century ago, death usually came abruptly; the most frequent causes were pneumonia, tuberculosis, diarrhea and injuries, sudden killers all. Today, the average American spends two years disabled enough to need help with the routine activities of living; and growing numbers survive to be 85 and older, at which point they have a 50 percent chance of suffering dementia before they die. In 2000, there were 4.2 million Americans in the 85-plus cohort, but by 2030 there will be nearly 9 million, according to a paper for the Rand institute by Joanne Lynn and David M. Adamson. We speak of people being "snatched from life." Death, for more and more Americans, however, is the final stumble in a slow decline.
We have not adjusted to this transformation, in emotional, moral or economic terms. .......Many Americans, and not just social conservatives, feel that life is always worth preserving and that wavering from this principle opens the door to selfish relatives who don't want the burden of caring for the vulnerable. It's an honorable outlook -- also a natural one. Many believe on religious grounds that life is sacrosanct. With the survival instinct hard-wired into human nature, others find it difficult to contemplate the extinction of the self. Yet there has to be space in a free society for others to differ: to draw up living wills that specify limits to life-prolonging medical interventions, and perhaps also to opt for assisted suicide........Thanks to Terri Schiavo, a national conversation is, we hope, beginning.
From the New York Times
One of the most astonishing things about the human experience is the realization that loved ones die. The first time it happens, we are invariably amazed that nearly everyone who has ever lived has weathered an experience so wrenching. We see other humans on the street and in the shops and marvel that they manage to simply go about their business - that there is no constant, universal primal scream in the face of such an awful fact.
That level of grief seldom brings out the noblest emotions. The sufferers can barely make their way through the day, let alone summon their best reserves of patience and compassion for the lucky people who continue to live. In the case of Terri Schiavo, the whole world witnessed what happens when that natural emotional frailty is taken captive by politics.
It was awful, and according to the polls, the American public shrank from the sight of it.
It's why we need a healthcare proxy as well as a living will. We need someone we can trust and burden with the authority to make decisions for us when we are unable.
But this too will require some deeper, bolder, tough talk: If we don't want to live ''like that," how do we want to live? Like what?
A Wellesley College bioethicist, Adrienne Asch, says: ''The typical advance directive or living will does not ask the right questions. It asks what sort of medical intervention we want or don't want. The question that we ought to be asked is what am I experiencing? What will make me feel that I have something to live for? What is enough?"
Asch, who is blind and very conscious of societal attitudes toward disabilities, says that if she wrote the living will form, it would ask people to imagine themselves in a range of scenarios. When would we want our lives prolonged by medicine? In her own advance directive she has written that ''as long as the people who know me believe that I recognize them and can differentiate them from strangers, I want to be alive." After that, enough.
People on all sides share a moral obligation. We need to let the people we leave behind mourn with the clear conscience that, as much as possible, they did what we wanted.
Terri Schiavo was only 25 when this tragedy began. Her family has been, simply, devastated. We owe our own families much, much more than that.
From It is Ended by William Anderson, senior psychiatrist at Mass General Hospital.
SO IT HAS ENDED. The nightmare of judicial execution by dehydration is finally over. How could such a thing have happened? Students of law, medicine, and ethics will examine this tragedy for decades to come.
To withhold minimal comfort measures such as water is gratuitous cruelty. But the judge must be convinced of his probity and rectitude, for he alerted every sheriff in Florida to be vigilant in preventing a chip of ice from entering Terri's mouth. And appellate courts declined to interfere with this travesty of justice on the grounds that proper procedures were followed. Thus they became complicit in the evolving tragedy.
Much mischief is set loose when the uncertain judgments of medical diagnosis are conflated with the rigid categories of the law. Unlike coma or brain death, persistent vegetative state is a diagnosis that depends on subjective judgment. It requires a finding of unresponsiveness in an awake and alert person. Even skilled diagnosticians may disagree on this assessment. It does not necessarily preclude the possibility of improvement. It has no definitive laboratory tests.
Thus the diagnosis of PVS is not reliable in a forensic sense, and should not be used in life and death decisions. It is a clinical diagnosis, which prescribes treatment measures in normative medical practice