Take the discussion currently underway about Different Strokes star Gary Coleman and the stipulations in his living will. It is reported that Coleman’s living will and durable power of attorney required that he be kept on life support for 15 days prior to making a final decision about continuing his treatment. Coleman’s wife, who he divorced in 2008, had the power to make the decision and had treatment disconnected within a day of his hospitalization.
Did she violate his wishes? The facts are unclear but what is clear, regardless, is that—as we have always argued—living wills and their accompanying documents are dangerous, particularly if left to third parties for interpretation. As reported, “A spokesman for the Utah Medical Association said a family member’s wishes have more weight than what’s written in a living will.” LifeSiteNews’ Matthew Hoffman, reporting on the Coleman case, wrote, “A person on life support, even for a few hours, is vulnerable to being dismissed as a ‘vegetable’ and his life terminated on the most flimsy criteria. Not only does such a standard indicate a distressing contempt for the sanctity of human life, but it also opens the possibility of serious abuses by relatives or friends, who might have a conflict of interest in making such a decision.”
In Great Britain, a physician, claiming to have acted with “Christian compassion,” has admitted that he took steps to prematurely end the lives of at least three of his patients. Upon learning of his public statement, my friend, Nancy Valko, R.N., wrote me in a recent e-mail: “Unfortunately, it is becoming routine in the United States that doctors (or others) who kill are acquitted or not charged at all. This leads to defacto euthanasia without changing laws against euthanasia/assisted suicide.”
It is therefore no coincidence that President Barack Obama has recommended a health care rationing advocate, Dr. Donald Berwick, to run Medicare and Medicaid. In complete agreement, pro-death Catholic Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius says Berwick is the right man for the job.
Then we have the most recent nominee for the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan, who it is feared might lend credence on the court to the idea that physician-assisted suicide should not be defined as a crime. While her remarks were not made in an official capacity during her time with the Clinton administration, it is troublesome that Kagan would not be seeking justice for all, particularly the most vulnerable members of society.
But perhaps a trend is building whereby the public is being softened up to accept the unthinkable as merely good medical practice in an era of decreasing economic wealth.
Christian Brugger and William May remind us that the antidote to such uncivilized practices is to always apply the Golden Rule. Whether we are caring for a loved one in a persistent vegetative state or staying up all night with a sick child, loving unselfishly can turn a nearly unbearable situation into an encounter with Christ. Anything less is not only inhumane, it is cruel and heartless.