Thursday, March 31, 2005

I Would Want to Live

Some of you disagree with me on the case of Terri Schiavo, comparing it to cases, when terminally ill patients, often under excruciating pain, wanted to not prolong their suffering needlessly or, when brain-dead people were taking off life-support machines.
There is, in my opinion, a difference between pulling a plug and taking somebody, who cannot protest, off his or her food and water.
A person dying of cancer under a lot of pain very often wishes to end this pain by overmedication on pain relief-medication, and I truly understand and would respect his or her wishes.
And, if I should have to suffer from terminal cancer, I would most probably choose myself to use as much pain-relief as possible, even if it would shorten my life-span.

But the case of Terri Schiavo is different. She was not terminally ill, she did not suffer from excruciating pain, and she had not left any will saying, that she would rather die than live in a semi-awake condition.

The accusations against her husband did not come from the media, but they came from her brother, who lived at the same apartment-complex and from her best friend, who told her parents that Terri was contemplating leaving her husband because of emotional and physical abuse.
These accusation were made years before Michael Schiavo went to court for ending Terri´s life, years before all the media attention. These accusations were made, when Terri´s parents wanted to gain custody over their daughter because Michael had refused to let her give rehabilitating therapy and antibiotic medication in two cases when Terri contracted an infection. These testamonies were not allowed into court by judge Greer.
I find Terri´s family and her best friend more believable than her husband.
The way she became isolated more and more from her family of origin and her former friends, together with other forms of control of her, does seem rather typical for an abusiv relationship.
I also find the testamonies of nurses and doctors, who say that Terri is reacting towards her family and even trying to communicate, quite believable.
Most of these testamonies were not allowed into court, which is in my opinion an abuse of justice.

And as I said, both the religious right and the Republicans jumped on the Terri band-wagon for their own political reasons and only after the parents had created enough publicity so they would find it worth it.And having the "wrong" people support Terri does not take away from the fact, that killing a handicapped person just because somebody is saying her life is worthless, is morally wrong. And it will, just like in Hitlers times, lead to more and more mercy-killings. Nowadays you call it lack of life-quality, when then it was called "lebensunwertes Leben" (life not worthy of living).

I think, to kill somebody because he or she is not seen as productive enough for capitalist society, is the end of civilization and the beginning of what Marx called barbary. Of course with these wars for profit we are already in the middle of a barbarian age. The killing of Terri Schiavo is just one more symptom.
To think about it, more people were getting killed in the last century and now in the beginning of the new one by wars and economic oppression than in any other age of humanity.

And in Germany, still one of the richest countries of the world with not yet as much poverty as you can see in the United States, just of few weaks ago, the leader of the junior Free Democrats said, "die Alten sollten den Löffel abgeben" (old people should drop down and die), because they are a drain on the system. And then some reporter on a follow-up, could find quite a few young people on the street with exactly the same opinion.
The retirement system might have some financial flaws and it might be in need for reform, like asking for a bit more solidarity from the rich, who nowadays can totally opt out of the system in Germany, or from the corporations who make billions of profits with a small work-force and therefore pay next to nothing into the social-system.But the young in Germany rather think, the best way would be for the elderly to just drop down dead.

We are a society of self-centeredness run amok.
Which means, we are on the way to self-destruction, because we can no longer empathize with one another.
As I pointed out in "Religion and Politics", altruism has been an important survival tool for humanity. The strength of the human species has allways been in cooperation far more than in in competition.
Caring for the sick has made society more compassionate, more tolerant towards differances and also more capable to find cures for healing, which improved survival rates for everybody.
And so, while not being able to care for themselves, handicapped people like Terri are still able to change society for the better, just by their very existance.

Thinking about Terri, I thought about what I would feel, if I ever came into her condition. While I´m rather sure, that she is indeed awake, I do not know, how capable she is of reflecting on her condition. If she is just dreaming most of the time, are her dreams making her life worth while?
Sometimes between dreaming and waking I feel most alife and most happy. And while I never can share those dreams, for they vanish, the minute I´m fully awake, I still can feel that there was something there, worth to have been lived through.
But what, if Terri actually can think, like us. The way she is laughing at jokes and closing her eyes at prayers, opening them again when prayer is finished, suggests, that she might be able to think but unable to speak, like some people who have a stroke.
There she lies incapable to communicate her thoughts.
If it was me, would I feel incarcerated into a personal hell?
I´ve done a lot of thinking during the last few years myself and most often was unable to communicate my thoughts with others, partly because I have a problem expressing myself verbally, partly because those around me aren´t too interested in my thoughts. And still, when I think about it, then I feel that every thought was worth it, even if only for me alone.
I believe in a higher purpose to life and in spiritual growth, personal and for the community.
And yes, even living in a world of dreams and thoughts all by myself, all alone, if I was Terri, I would want to live.