Saturday, August 2, 2008

Good Question

This is about the Declaration on Euthanasia, written by Pope John Paul in 1980 I think.

It's a little complicated, and I don't want to use names of course, in case someone reading this knows the family.

I have a friend, a nurse, who's relative, a 96 yr old widow, had a stroke a couple of weeks ago. They called it a storm, meaning most of her brain has been affected. She is paralyzed on her left side and cannot talk, though she seems to be aware of her surroundings, responds to them and can make noises. She also "fusses" when they move her or change her clothes, so she is very much "with us" though she cannot communicate clearly.She is stable enough; so that they were able to bring her home last week. The woman's daughter lives with her, and they have home health help.

The problem is this: the hospital personnel and doctors involved with her in the beginning, even the home health nurse who was with her at the time of the stroke, said that since she has a DNR in place, and has signed a living will, that they would recommend that she not receive care. They even felt that she should not receive nourishment.

My friend, being an in-law, and not the blood kin, had kept her mouth shut until this point. She insisted that the Church requires that a patient receive basic care and that would include nourishment, even if that involved a feeding tube. She was surprised at the response she got from the hospital personnel and even from her own family members, one of whom is a hospital administrator. She was told that the lady was old and it would be unfair to force her to live when she was in such a state. They said her "quality of life" would be poor, and besides it was not her decision anyway. My friend said she felt that they were being pressured to let the woman die.

So she encouraged her husband to consult their priest, before making a decision. Apparently the lady's daughter agreed with her, and said she had no intention of starving her mother to death, and requested they insert the feeding tube. Which they did. The lady is holding her own and seems happy to be in her own home. The next day they spoke with their priest (and this is the clincher) Father said the feeding tube could be considered "extraordinary measures" and it would not have been wrong to decline it. He is saying the feeding tube is "invasive" .

Who gets to decide what are extraordinary means? We have read this Declaration as part of our biology class and it IS vague to me. Do we leave these decisions up to the doctors? I hope not. How can the mere act of feeding a person be considered extraordinary?

We need to read those "living wills" carefully; so that we do not give someone too much choice over our own lives. Or we need to be clear, so that our families don't have to make these kinds of decisions, or have these kinds of disagreements.(emphasis Adam's)

This is so important, I would love to hear other opinions.