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How old am I? I can clearly remember a time when we were taught that all life was sacred, every person mattered and that the painful decisions of life and death were left to those afflicted, grieving families, their doctors and whatever faith leaders they sought comfort from. When did this all change? When did we become so calloused, so cold, so detached from the plight of others that we could allow a faceless state to be the ultimate arbiter of the time, location and manner of our passing? And how do they determine what dignity, our dignity, actually means at the time of our death?

Is there dignity in hope?

I have no idea what “mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome” is. I really don’t much care to know. No one should be forced to know; least of all a ten-month old infant. But the UK government, in its infinite wisdom and compassion, has decided that the parents of little Charlie Gard have forty-eight hours to convince them that he is worth saving; that he has some chance, a realistic chance, or they, the benevolent state, will forcibly end his life. And don’t get confused over my wording here; they aren’t going to hold the little boy down and smother him. Although, it certainly appears as though they could if they wanted to, being all powerful and righteous and stuff like that. No, they’ll physically restrain his parents as the young boy is allowed to die; how? Slowly wither away? Will they flip some magical switch and instantly end all his pain and suffering, and that of his parents? Not at home, not in the arms of his mother or father? Let’s get some clarity here. Just how does the state intend to offer this child a death with “dignity?”

Let’s face it, we’ve come a long way as a civilization in the fifty years or so that I’ve cast my shadow on this planet. We’ve been treated to break-through after break though in medicine, although there are far too many scourges we’ve yet to conquer. And because of that reality, we’ve also grown intellectually; or so we think. No, we’ve had our brushes with eugenics along the way. Thought we’d put that ugly chapter to bed, didn’t we? But what is this if not a branch of that, the next logical extension of “for the good of all.” And don’t be confused here, for what else is the rationale behind denying a child and his parents an opportunity, a hope no matter how slim, to prolong the life of a child? What harm could there be in letting a grieving, desperate parent fly to some willing medical center that is offering a chance; without any expense to the citizenry or the state at all? What is at stake here? Simple; power. The power to decide which groups deserve to live, which don’t. A power thinly disguised by the state as compassion, acting in the best interest of the child as if the parents were flying him to some dark, remote location to perform untold medical experiments upon him. No, we can’t take that chance. Let’s kill him now.

Power. A power that the state has taken great pains to cultivate and one they would rather not give up. What group of unfortunates will be next? How about those with advanced cancer? Should the state decide at some point, sorry, your medical support is done? No chance for you, no matter how slim. We have determined that and we know what’s best for you. Alarmist? Hardly. What convincing argument does the state have to sentence this child to a certain death when there are others, doctors in other parts of the world possibly, who offer hope. Not a guarantee, but hope. And at no cost to them. Because at the end of it all, that’s all medicine can ever offer us is hope. No guarantees. Deciding to withhold services is one thing; forbidding someone from getting them elsewhere, even for a glimmer of that hope is nothing short of euthanasia. The “group” here is those determined by the state to be “hopeless;” hopeless, because the state is all about destroying the concept of hope. Hope leads to people taking back power from the state. And it won’t be long before other groups will be “hopeless” for some reason or another. Soon it will be age; or ability to produce for the state coffers.

So, as I watch the papers and read blogs and comments, I see a number of people expressing concern and dismay; let the child go somewhere, anywhere, while there is still hope. But I am troubled by the rather large numbers of those who are expressing disdain for the parents; they need to let go, they’re making the child suffer needlessly. I’ve even seen them called selfish for holding out hope where the commenter has determined there is none.  But only those who are truly hopeless themselves never see hope. And I doubt like hell that the parents want to see this child suffer. And of course, there are those who are begging the parents to let the poor child die with dignity, a phrase already used by the state. Odd juxtaposition; if the child wanted to mutilate themselves, we’d be cheering the parents for tolerance and understanding. And just twelve months ago, it would have been perfectly acceptable to tear this child limb from limb, without any concern for whether he felt pain, only to be sucked out of the womb by a tube so his parts could be sold to the highest bidder. What type of dignity is that? This is where we’ve traveled. To this point; where a parent, struggling to save the life of an infant is given forty-eight hours to prove beyond doubt that he can be saved, but waiting forty-eight hours before deciding to tear him from the womb is unacceptable.

No, this is all about the ultimate power of the state; and the right we have given them to determine for ourselves and for those we love, to dictate the reason, the manner and the time of our death; and the definition of our final dignity at the end of our lives.

 

 


Working for a company with a large presence in Canada affords me some spirited political conversations with many of my co-workers who reside north of the border.  They really do have a sense for how difficult politics is for us in the U.S., mostly because they have their own cadre of idiots running the show up in the Great White North.  I often find that their understanding of our politics, or even who we are as a people is greatly skewed by those who wish to portray us as buffoons and gluttons to the rest of the world, namely our Press and theirs.  You know, those high and mighty, neatly coiffed Kens and Barbies from New York and L.A. who know just exactly what evil lurks in the hearts and minds of the average farm family from Nebraska.  Invariably, the topic usually turns to my Canadian friends’ amusement at our hatred for taxes and our lack of compassion for our fellow man, as witnessed by the fight against socialized medicine.  However, the conversation tends to be a little different when the typical Canadian speaks about their own experiences well out of earshot of their fellow countrymen.  Politeness is in their genes you see.

Dripping with compassion…

Of course, many of my northern friends will tell you how amazing it is that they don’t have to pay for their socialized health care, how unfair it is here south of the border that people cannot afford basic health care.  It doesn’t speak well about who we are as a people you know, eh?  Odd that they see our insistence on self-reliance and the desire to get our elected officials to curb their spending habits, as we must with our home budgets, as cold and calloused.  Of course, they were promised something for free which is rationed and seems almost universally unavailable when needed.  But that’s compassionate and of course, it’s impolite to point out otherwise.

One friend recounts how her father went into the hospital on a Saturday, only to be moved into isolation on Sunday due to a lung infection.  As of 5 days later, his bed sheets remained unchanged.  It wasn’t until the janitor complained to staff that he finally received fresh linen.  His procedure was scheduled for Wednesday, requiring him to eat his morning meal early, before 9:00 a.m.  Unfortunately, the nurse did not arrive at the hospital until past 9:00-ish and the gentleman missed his meal.  In fact, he went the whole day without being fed until after a series of complaints yielded plain toast well after supper, his only meal of the day.  The family notes that the only visitor to his room the whole day was the same janitor.  How compassionate.  At least his care was free.

I spent this weekend with our horrible health care industry, as I took my daughter into the emergency room well past midnight Saturday.  By 1:30 am, she had been seen by three nurses, was given an IV for dehydration, had blood work taken and was resting as comfortable as possible in her bed, eyes fluttering with heaviness of sleep.  Every 15 minutes or so, the nurse would come in to check on her fluid levels and general level of comfort.  Once the blood work came back, it was determined that the CAT scan scheduled for the early morning would not be needed, having some virus that was causing her to present her symptoms.  Rest at home, fluids, armed with an anti-nausea medication was the prescription and by 5:50 am we were headed home.  And yes, I gave them my insurance card and will pay the co-pay for the emergency room.

Not once did I have to insist on care.  Not once was any procedure ruled out due to cost or availability and I never doubted the compassion of the E.R. doctor who held her hand as she explained to my frightened 14 year-old how the I.V. would hurt (a little).

As this Monday morning’s work schedule started to unfold, I got a call from one of my co-workers north of the border.  She too had spent the weekend with a friend in an emergency room in the U.S., a sight-seeing trip that took an unwanted diversion.  She remarked to me how well her friend was taken care of and she marveled at the poster on the wall in the triage room that explained that it is against the law to deny anyone treatment based on their inability to pay.  The same placard I had stared at lazily Saturday morning from 1:00 a.m. until we left.

I find nothing compassionate about charging people for something promoted as free, for which they must beg only to be delayed by scarcity or economic considerations, if the procedure is available at all.  Yes health care in the U.S. is quite expensive, and the insurance was quite onerous when I was unemployed.  But the relationship between me and my providers is not separated by some faceless yahoo intent on using my tax money and the plight of unfortunate people around the country as a bargaining chip to get re-elected.  True, there are some guidelines decided by some other faceless yahoos at Big Insurance Incorporated that come into play.  But not at point of delivery.

But none of that mattered to the nurse who saw my daughter shiver at 2:00 a.m. due to the cold IV dripping into her system, only to return 3 minutes later to wrap her with a blanket she had warmed in the dryer.  She would replace it three more times before the morning was through.

Yup, us Americans, we’re heartless bastards fer sure, eh?

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