Publius

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Compassion

According to Webster's, compassion is:
sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it

When we keep alive a human body that has no human soul inside it, we are not acting in compassion. We are not acting out of a respect for "human rights". We are acting selfishly, in avoidance of the pain of loss.

Yet people in this situation replace the pain of loss, with a lifetime of suffering. Theirs, certainly. In many cases, that of the helpless patient as well.

Being human is more than having human DNA. It's more than having organs, heart lungs and liver. It's more, even, than being alive.

Our society has become fixated on the concept of life. We are obsessed with it. It is now assumed that in all cases, no matter what, to be alive is better than to be dead.

Yet many things in human behavior that are uniquely human, trade life for something more important. We trade life for love, or for freedom, or to save others. We are acting selfishly in these cases, because we are acting to further our values. OUR values. I would rather risk death than live as a slave. I would rather die than be comatose hooked up to a feeding tube for years. I would rather die quickly, than live months in pain dying slowly from terminal cancer. These are my choices. It's my life, and who the hell are you to tell me what to do with my life? I thought this country was about freedom?

And in the case of a person who is incapacitated, or even those who never developed a mind in the first place, the decisions of life and death must be made by others.

Compassion is not forcing the unlucky to bear a lifetime of agony keeping alive and caring for a soulless body. It does not alleviate the suffering of the victim, and it does nothing but create intense suffering in everyone else around. How is that "humanitarian"?

Those faced with the decision, take care of such a person or let them die, should be given the choice. And they should not be criticized, whatever the choice, by any of the rest of us -- those who do not step up and offer to take care of the victim in their place, have no goddamn right to say anything about it.

No person, whether parent, child, husband or wife, should be forced forever to endure the cost -- mental or financial -- of keeping alive an invalid who has no hope of ever gaining or regaining consciousness. To demand otherwise of them, is wholly uncompassionate.

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