Sunday, January 26, 2014

Oh, Mr. Bates

Dear Mr. Bates (and all other men in your position):

There is nothing gallant or noble or honorable or good about declaring that you will kill your wife's (girlfriend's, mother's, sister's, etc.) rapist. Quite the contrary, in fact.

To put it bluntly, it's a dick move. Actually following through on your declaration and committing murder is even worse.

Someone seriously needs to shake Mr. Bates and any man who thinks like he does. It certainly does not help your wife that she won't even tell you she was raped because she's so certain you will kill a man and be sentenced to death for it.  Nor will it help her for you to actually get sentenced to death. You're doing a heck of a job looking out for her by insisting on doing something that will only cause her more suffering.

I used to like you a lot, Mr. Bates. But right now, I just think you're a dick. A big, jerky stubborn ass.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

In news that should be a surprise to no one

For weeks now, a hospital in Texas has been insisting it has no choice but to maintain a dead woman's body on an artificial respirator because she was pregnant at the time of her death. 14 weeks pregnant to be exact, which is pre-viability no matter how you calculate viability. A fetus at 14 weeks of development has no possibility of surviving outside the womb. It may have  beating heart, but if this last few weeks of discussion about "brain death" have taught us anything, I would sincerely hope it's that life, real true life, requires so much more than just a beating heart.

Too many people are hung up on the idea that a beating heart is all it takes, though. So when Marlise Munoz's brain lost oxygen until heroic measures couldn't save it, that damn hospital kept forcing oxygen through her lungs merely because there was still a fetal heartbeat. Even though that fetus had also been without oxygen for a long time, probably a catastrophic time. (There's also the side point that the law cited by the hospital probably doesn't apply as it prohibits removing "life support" from a terminal patient. Munoz is dead, so there's no life to support and her situation isn't terminal, it's final.)

For weeks, Munoz's family has been trying to get the ventilator turned off so their beloved can be laid to rest already. They have done this to respect her wishes, all while getting vilified by idiots who accuse the grieving husband of wanting to "murder" his child. Their argument all along, though, has been that Marlise is dead, that her body shouldn't be treated as an incubator, that god or nature or whatever has already made its decision about the fate of both Marlise and the fetus. And they have also argued that while there might still be a fetal heartbeat, it is almost unimaginable that the fetus could possibly develop properly and be born alive to any life they would want for it.

So today in news that should be a surprise to no one, we learn through the Munoz family that, indeed, the fetus is "distinctly abnormal." Malformed, or unformed, limbs. Brain swelling. Heart problems. Who knows what else.

Because life requires more than a heartbeat maintained by mechanical respiration. A heart can be made to beat while totally removed from a body. On the flip side, a person can be kept alive, alive as in conscious and talking and maintaining all of those delightful little personality quirks that makes her her, without a heart at all, but rather with a machine doing the work of blood circulation. Life requires a brain, not just a heartbeat. So it stands to reason that when a fetus' development is dependent on the life of the woman carrying it, that development just won't happen right when the woman's brain is dead. No one has succeeded in growing a fetus in an incubator, some soulless machine. This case isn't any different.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Where I've been

Yeah, it's been a while. The last part of 2013 got a little rough. Throughout 2013, there was one on-going struggle. Those of you who know me personally know we never seemed to go very long between episodes. You might have thought it couldn't get much worse than the May incident, but then October hit. I'm being intentionally cryptic because I'm not the central figure in last year's incidents (well, except for the car death thing, that was my car), so I don't really want to say what exactly the struggles were or where we stand now.

Suffice it to say that by mid-November, I was pretty fried. Emotionally exhausted. Drained. I was pretty ready to kick 2013 to the curb. I wasn't reading much, even. Really in the times that I was home, I wasn't doing much beyond sitting on my couch and knitting. Frankly, ranting about things was pretty much the last thing on my mind (never thought I'd say that).

I'm still not really back. The struggles continue. Though it is much better, it's still too early to know what the long-term outcome will be. Which just frustrates the crap out of me. And January is dark and cold and depressing. And the Chiefs...well, I can't even think about that yet.

At this point, I just have to force myself to get back to doing all the things I used to do until I really get the spark back. And it would be very, very helpful if 2014 could just refrain from sending any more crappy incidents my way.
Brain death is all over the news these days and it's making me crazy. A dead teen is being kept breathing on a ventilator in some private, undisclosed location because her family refused to accept that she's dead and a dead woman is being kept breathing on a ventilator in a Texas hospital against her family's wishes because the fetus inside her still has a heartbeat. Both are dead. Both should already have been buried, cremated, memorialized, whatever by now.

First, there's Jahi McMath. Again, to be clear, she's dead. 6 doctors have agreed, with absolutely no disagreement, except from the girl's mother (understandably anguished) who says her daughter feels warm and has a heartbeat, so she's not dead. Because that's a scientifically sound basis for determining life and death. The circus surrounding that case has been well-document. Just this evening, her family's lawyer informed the world that Jahi is "improving" after being moved and fitted with a feeding tube.

Side note: I have to wonder about the medical professional who put in the feeding tube, which is a surgical procedure. I have some recent personal experience with this. My family had to go through a lot of discussions regarding that feeding tube, and mine was for a person who was unquestionably alive, aware, not comatose, etc. There's a reason why all of the medical professionals at the Oakland hospital (and apparently at reputable rehab facilities contacted by the family) refused to insert a feeding tube into a dead person.

So, anyway. Girl dead, family refusing to accept this fact, death certificate issued, and yet somehow the county coroner has released the girl's body to her mother's custody so that the mother can maintain the very macabre fantasy that her daughter is still alive.

Then there's Marlise Munoz, the dead Texas mother whose body is now being used as an incubator against her and her family's wishes just because the tragedy of her sudden, unexpected death happened to be compounded by the fact that she was 14 weeks pregnant at the time the embolism killed her. I have not seen any indication that there is any question about whether she is in fact brain dead, so I am operating under the assumption that neurologists who have examined her agree with that assessment. This woman's family sought to cease artificial respiration, but the hospital refused, citing a Texas law that prohibits the removal of life support from a terminal patient if she is pregnant.

It's disgusting.

Both cases are being treated like they raise so many thorny legal and ethical questions, but here's the thing: they don't.

Brain dead is dead. Yes, there are anecdotal examples of doctors not following the protocol correctly before declaring brain death. That is not the same thing as saying brain death isn't final and irreversible. So, yes, a family like Jahi's should be allowed to make sure the assessment is correct. Perhaps even to the point of being able to go to court to get a court-appointed outside doctor to give a second opinion. But they shouldn't be allowed to take private custody of dead bodies. We have laws about disposal of bodies for a reason, because it's a public health issue. And it's frankly just gross to think of a body being animated in some creepy simulation of life to assuage the grief of a family in denial.

Meanwhile, a family like Marlise Munoz's should not be forced to know that their loved one's body is similarly being artificially animated in the vain hope that enough semblance of life can be faked for long enough to turn a nonviable fetus into a live infant. For crying out loud, we have no idea what the lack of oxygen that killed Marlise's brain did to the fetus, but it can't be good. And how can it possibly be developing in any good way inside a body that has no brain function, the key to all bodily systems working. But somehow, the hospital insists that the law in Texas requires them to keep up this charade until they can try a C-section at some point, undoubtedly a point way too early for ideal, safe delivery.

Side note: I question the hospital's interpretation of the law. The statute prohibits taking a terminal patient off life support (which is despicable enough, but that'd be the subject of a different rant). But if a person is dead, that patient is no longer terminal, right? And when a respirator is the only thing maintaining any illusion of life, it's not life support. Were I representing this woman's family, I would most strenuously argue that this law applies to women in comas or in persistent vegetative states, women who have at least minimal brain stem function, but does not, and indeed cannot, apply to women who are, as Marlise Munoz is, dead.

What these two cases show is that we as a culture have some seriously messed-up ideas about how to respect life. We don't respect life by allowing people to pretend that the state that Jahi McMath and Marlise Munoz are in right now is life. It isn't, for either of them. It's a cruel hoax. We also don't respect life by forcing Marlise's pregnancy to continue in this sorry state, when we have no idea what sort of pain and suffering will result. Is it even possible that a live infant can come out of this mess? If so, what sort of developmental issues will it be born with?

Respecting life would be letting nature take its course. Both of these individuals are dead. They shouldn't be used as incubators for a mother's denial or for a fetus. Dead is dead.

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