Monday, November 9, 2009

Unanswerable Question

This past weekend, someone that I work with had to make the extremely difficult decision to "pull the plug" on their mother. When this person told me what they had decided to do, something inside me quaked. I knew that this person loved their mother and didn't want to do such a thing, but, because of the situation, had decided that it was the most loving thing they could do for their mother. Ever since I talked to this person, I've been troubled. Part of me can't help thinking that, no matter what was wrong with a person, ending his or her life is never the right decision. But the other part of me wonders if, sometimes, it's the best and most loving decision. So then I'm faced with the question: is it ever okay to remove life support from a person in order to let them die, and if so, when is it okay to do so? If the person is completely paralyzed, has to be fed through a tube, is on an oxygen machine, and can't communicate at all and yet is not brain dead, is it okay? If a person is in a coma and shows no signs of coming out of it, is it okay? If a person is on life support and is partially brain dead, is it okay? What if they're completely brain dead? If a person is in a vegetative state and is completely brain dead, are they even technically alive anymore?
And then we must think about children that are born that are paralyzed or physically or mentally retarded in some way. If there's a certain standard for when it's okay to take life support away from an older person, there are children that are born who'd fall into the same category. Is it then okay to let a child die if an old person in that exact same position is allowed to die?
These questions trouble me, not only because I may one day be put in a place where I have to make such a decision about my parents, but also because, from a Christian standpoint, I firmly believe that all life is precious and everyone deserves a chance to live. As a Christian, can I condone taking away life support from someone, no matter what kind of physical/mental position that person is in? If Jesus was here and I asked him these questions, what would He say? Would He Who healed the sick and the mentally challenged say it's okay to pull life support? Or would He Who had so much compassion on the sick and mentally challenged say that it's the most loving thing that could be done? Is it taking someone's life into our own hands or is it giving someone what is best for them?


  1. In my mind, and I suppose in what I've been taught, I think if the life is already technically gone--if a person is brain dead--then there's nothing to take away, really. Beyond that, I like to think a miracle is always possible . . .

    - Little Mama

  2. You are pondering questions that many, many people have pondered over many, many times. I don't think there is one easy, packaged answer to your questions. Additionally, when one is faced with having to make a decision based on actual events in one's life, it's different than making a decision without the emotion of the event.

    Think also, Dara, that perhaps the mother had a living will in which she said she wanted this to happen. That doesn't make the decision painless, but does make it easier.

    Also, bear in mind that regardless of what horror stories one may have heard about this issue, even in this post-modern society, virtually all physicians and health care entities have ethics standards and practices that closely follow Christian principles. The vast majority of health practitioners (at least those I am acquainted with) agonize over these decisions along with the family.

    Good blog.