Thursday, March 24, 2005

Reality Check

I have been pretty disgusted with all the reports today from the major news networks describing death by starvation as a 'peaceful' and 'painless' way to go. How stupid do they think we are? Have you ever fasted for even one day? It is excrutiating!

Raven, who runs a blog called And Rightly So is a Licensed Nursing Assistant in New Hampshire who works with patients living in a Persistive Vegetative State and other serious brain injuries. She has also personally witnessed patients die of starvation.

Here is an excerpt from her latest blog entry:

I have been asked to write about the situation involving Terry Schiavo. Since I work with people who are in the condition Terry is in, I have some things to say. I have been following this story for 5 years now and I also have been in contact with aides who have worked with Terry. It’s sickening.

When people think about COMA’S, they often assume the victim is unconscious and unaware of their surroundings. This is true in many cases, as I have described here before. I work mainly with younger people, but do “float” over to the Adult Brain Injury unit quite a bit. I see lots of Terry’s there. People like her are indeed alive; they are living breathing humans who have survived an often tragic event. Are they who they used to be? No. Will they ever be who they used to be? Probably not. Do they respond to stimuli? Yes. Do they respond to people? Yes. Do they talk? Not usually, but they make eye contact and smile and laugh. And they reach out to you. They are human beings, who tend to like the company of others and…well…like to be alive. Terry smiles a lot, and she seems happy almost all the time. She is not hooked up to any machines.

I have seen some pretty sad things in my work. I have seem little children with G Tubes put to death by their parents, who had decided that their child is not living a “valuable” life. The state often has to get involved in cases like this, but with kids it’s pretty cut and dry: The parents have the final say. All ethics put aside, all arguments about what is a life and what isn’t-the very worst part of what I do is watching others die a slow death. It is horrible and I don’t deal well with it.

By removing nutrition and hydration via the tubes, patients take days to die. They literally dry out. There skin becomes dry and scaly; their lips dry out and then the mouth can no longer open. The person either rolls in the fetal position and stays that way, or they lay out flat. They no longer void and their eyes become sunk in very deep.
I won’t go into anymore details as it is kind of gross, but it isn’t a pretty thing. Usually the docs and nurses do a “terrific” job with pain killers. The dying, supposedly, feel no pain. I don’t think that is ever true. I see them moaning and I have seen little tears rolling out of their dry eyes. The last patient I witnessed being put to death like this took 3 weeks to go. How sweet.

I hate to use the term “put to death” but that is what it is. No need to beat around the bush here and don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t that simple. It’s wrong and it’s barbaric. Life is life, and anyone alive who has not made their wishes known should be allowed to live. As to quality of life, who are we to decide what that is?

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