Friday, March 25

"Good" Friday and the Value of Dignity

I'm sure there are countless other blogs expressing opinions and arguing sides regarding issues surrounding Terri Schiavo's situation. I know better than to try to address all of the factors involved, but I do have an opinion, and am incredibly grateful for the *privilege* (it's not a right) I've been given to express it.

Dignity. What is dignity? Why do we value it? Why do we consider it a right? Is it something we earn? Is it something we "deserve"? And if so, who determines that? Does every human being deserve it, or only some? Do animals? Trees? Or only those beings "created in the image of" God?

Does God value dignity? Does God exhibit dignity? On this day, Good Friday, above all others, I think we are reminded of the Truth. Dignity may be important but it is certainly not the most important thing there is. Love is more important. And Life is more important.

God Himself was whipped ("scourged," actually, which is in reality so much worse than even depicted in last year's controversially 'violent' movie about Christ's Passion and crucifixion), stripped, insulted, and spat upon, all in public view, not secluded in a hospital room. He had nails hammered through his hands and feet, and thorns crushed into his scalp. The only "food" offered him was a vinegar-drenched cloth, which would only increase, not quench, his thirst. There might be a few methods of dying in which there is little suffering, but most would agree that being deprived of oxygen (which the position of crucifixion makes inevitable), food or drink are among the most horrid.

How can someone say they value dignity, yet cause someone to suffer that much, for so long (Terri has been without her feeding tube for a week now)? Also, are not the same advocates of her death the same political group who champion rights of the poor and [because of economic or related reasons] food-deprived?

God the Father, the greatest giver of love in existence, allowed his Son to suffer an incredibly indignant, public death. God the Son endured said indignity for our sake, without one complaint or balk or last grasp at anything that He - rightly - deserved.

Do we deserve more than He?

No, there are no easy answers. But there are examples. And when we do not know the answer, should we not err on the side of caution? On the side of protecting life, protecting the life of someone we love, regardless of personal (i.e. caregiver) costs?

I would also like to share a story I just read, written by a woman who recovered from a 2-month coma and struggles herself with these difficult issues: While I Was Sleeping - Today's Christian. I have 2 acquaintances who have suffered brain damage in automobile accidents; one has recovered and to my knowledge leads a full, "normal" life. The other, whose accident was more recent, faces a long road toward recovery and I can only guess that her husband faces some of the issues that have faced Terri's husband over the years.

May those of us who seek to Glorify God and reflect His values seek His Word and His example in forming and expressing our personal convictions. And may we reach out to any personally affected by and struggling with these issues.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal Life." - John 3:16


Hellman Jackson said...

Couple of things: first, hi, interesting piece. I think dignity is the external manifestation of grace, which was of course perfectly embodied by Christ. The significance for me of Christ's ordeal was that it was fundamentally voluntary, although when you get into ideas of predetermination, prophecy, etc. it is clear that Christ's actions and the fact that he was Christ are inseparable.

The people that you know who have suffered brain injuries are not in the same situation as Terri Schiavo. They are in a process of recovery and retain enough brain function to make this possible. She does not. She is also not in a coma. Her cerebral has been severely damaged and she retains only brain stem function. The movement and noise that she exhibits is a result of this. There is much to be learned still about brain function and it's connection with consciousness, etc., but we are talking about level of damage where well known functions of the nervous system are more relevant. Her body remains alive and will react to stress and trauma, but there is no possibility of her experiencing pain or anything else. This is not a slippery slope towards involuntary euthanasia. Terri is in the same situation as tens of thousands of other people in similar situations across the U.S who are also unaware and moving towards death as a result of "do not resuccitate" orders. If left as she is now, her body will die in just the same way as that of a person in the final stages of alzheimers. One in four people over 80 has alzheimers and unless they die of something else first will slowly deteriorate and not be artificially supported as there is no hope of recovery, no consciousness and no dignity in their final state. So entirely unlike christ in every sense.

Kat said...

Hi Hellman, thanks for the comment! You may be right about her physical state; I honestly don't know enough of the details to say. But to me whether or not she can feel pain is moot. Starving/dehydrating someone to death is cruel. If it is acceptable to "let" her die in this way why wouldn't it be acceptable for her husband to just smother her, give her a lethal injection, or in some other way end her life more quickly and with less suffering? To me all of these are, in essence, murder, and it's just not a human being's place to decide when another human's life should end.

I believe DNR orders apply when someone's heart or lungs have stopped functioning and don't have anything to do with whether or not someone can feed themselves. Would it have been ok for his wife to deny Christopher Reeve of food even though he couldn't get it himself? I know there are other factors for Terri but that's one related issue you brought up and I don't think it's comparing apples to apples.

You also seem to still be pleading the case for dignity in death, or however one wants to phrase it, but I don't think that really exists, nor is it more important than honoring life.

Anonymous said...

Big Fish was a great movie!

Kat said...

Hi, welcome, & thanks for reading & commenting! Come back & tell me who you are. ;)