Breath of Life and Navel Gazing
…”what is in their child’s best interests.” That’s the only bit with which I have a difficulty. That doesn’t seem to be an inherently medical question but seems more loaded with moral urgency than anything; to let someone die (as in, switching off whatever support is keeping said child alive) does indeed go to the heart of medical ethics. I find it troubling that the courts have a remit over what inherent ‘dignity’ is, and that physicians can have a say in it if they simultaneously, essentially, argue in favour of death. Sure, there are fates worse than death, so we believe, but could they scientifically make that case, or give an account for the phenomenology of what occurs when the eyes close permanently… ? I don’t see how medical professionals or the court systems can.
…There has to be a change to the system; whilst these parents will have had to accept a treacherous fate for their son and their family, it seems to me that the system is essentially mechanised to sever the link between parent and child based purely on the knowledge of the day; either the bond and the decision of parents in favour of life has to be acknowledged, or we get to that point in our history where we decide that that particular line is an arbitrary construct. That someone is irrational if going against medical advice for the sheer glimmer of hope of some experimental therapy….
Lord knows I’ve been told by at least three doctors that I ‘may as well be dead’ (or words to that effect) – and my conditions are chronic but not terminal, mind you – when their treatments or approaches haven’t worked on me – and Lord knows, with all cards on the table, that I have for short periods begged for death in the moments I have suffered extreme pain before it could be controlled- and I worry that such cynicism prevails to the extent that the void of death (which is the only thing they can assume) is better than a very difficult life, that the marginal hope that these parents might have is not worth the investment, and that death is an actual solution to a particularly complex problem. Close to two-thousand years of religious, particularly Christian, history in the ‘West’ doesn’t seem to strike me as believing in that, in fact the Resurrection is the Triumph over death in a fallen world – is the problem that it’s a post-metaphysical world? And what of the place of the family and the parent, and marriage as a union open precisely to life, not death?
Obviously I’m not a doctor so will not necessarily see it from that vantage – trying to mitigate harm and construing the Hippocratic Oath in such a way as to insist that a procedure may do more harm still strikes me as going against the spirit of such an Oath, or an oath to that effect.
I reckon that there are broader philosophical problems here that navel-gazers may have to thrash out.