Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

11.12.2013

Precious Life

A Father's Tenderness

The story of Tim Bowers ended tragically last week [1]. It wasn't one of those beautiful fairy tales in which the good guy triumphs, the villain hobbles away, and the last page concludes with "and they lived happily ever after" and a large, flourishing "The End." Tim Bowers' story took a turn no one--least of all he--expected. In a heartbreaking moment, he fell 16 feet while hunting, leaving him paralyzed from the shoulders down. The story of his life was forever changed--nothing would ever be easy or even happy again. But with his mental faculties fully intact, his life story wasn't over!

To a culture that murders helpless babies in the womb, though, his life story was over. To a society that increasingly scoffs at the helpless, his story had no meaningful contributions left. To a world that has granted terminally ill patients the right to commit suicide, his story had ended.

This man would never be able to hunt, never be able to hold his baby, never be able to walk, and never be able to feed himself. Doctors said that he might not ever be able to breath on his own. Yet he would still be able to converse, kiss, laugh, think, debate, cry, and live. His life was still precious!

There is a time to cease artificially keeping someone alive--but this is a decision arrived at slowly and carefully. I will never know what caused the Bowers family to consider taking out the breathing tube only 24 hours after the accident or why, when they took Tim Bowers out of sedation to ask him, Tim consented to going off the ventilator. I grieve with them for the loss of this precious life.

And I grieve for my country that extols such a decision. When we end a life and praise the "control" it brings to an out-of-control situation, we set ourselves up as God. When we end a life because of its messiness, we take selfishness to its farthest possibility. When we end a life based on future possibilities, we react in irrational fear.

God has created each human being in His own image! Europe and North America--I will take the 95% of down syndrome babies you are aborting [2]! They are precious lives! The 673 Oregonians alone [3] who have committed physician-assisted suicide were precious lives from whom my generation had so much to learn about courage, love, and selfless sacrifice. To the hospital who refused to treat a baby until threatened with legal action--is this now survival of the fittest at its finest [4]?

The Old Lady and the Birds

Oh, precious lives! Who will speak and defend and care for them?
 
Weigh in: At what point is life support artificially keeping someone alive and when should it be pulled? Do you agree with Tim Bowers' decision?



[1] Paralyzed Hunter Chooses to be Taken off Life Support
[2] Caroline Mansfield, Suellen Hopfer, Theresa M Marteau (1999). "Termination rates after prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, spina bifida, anencephaly, and Turner and Klinefelter syndromes: a systematic literature review". Prenatal Diagnosis 19 (9): 808–12. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1097-0223(199909)19:9<808::AID-PD637>3.0.CO;2-B. PMID 10521836. This is similar to 90% results found by Britt, David W; Risinger, Samantha T; Miller, Virginia; Mans, Mary K; Krivchenia, Eric L; Evans, Mark I (1999). "Determinants of parental decisions after the prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome: Bringing in context". American Journal of Medical Genetics 93 (5): 410–16. doi:10.1002/1096-8628(20000828)93:5<410::AID-AJMG12>3.0.CO;2-F. PMID 10951466.
[3] http://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Documents/year15.pdf
[4] http://www.visionforumministries.org/projects/llmaf/baby_nathan_valor_jackson.aspx

Photo Credit: Rebecca Trynes
Photo Credit: Christopher Walker

11 comments:

  1. My question would be: If he was paralyzed from the waist down, would they have done it?

    If he had lost both legs in a car wreck, would they have done it?

    If he had come home from war with one leg and a spirit full of anguish, would they have helped him die because he couldn't see the light?

    At what point will any reason be reason enough to die at will?

    As with abortion, will the time come when the simple "My choice" be justification enough to die?

    Will we have a process to try to counsel people and tell them that their live is valuable, that there is hope, that paralysis from the neck down is not the end of their value or even the end of joy in the future!
    Will we point them to Joni Tada or will we offer "same day turn-around" in the death chambers?

    Will a 60 year old man with lung cancer, a thirty year old woman blind after a car accident, and a deeply depressed nineteen year old girl all seek the same "answer?" How will we say what the grounds are for this being "the right choice." Who gets to play God? Who gets to tell one patient "Yes." and another "No."

    Does a 72 year old man with cancer have to wait until the pain gets really bad, or can he die right after the diagnoses?
    And what about the times when doctors have been wrong, when recovery has happened, or when death has come but has come after months or years of final days with family... family who wants you there as long as possible?

    And at what point does this evil go from being legally allowed, to professionally condoned, to flat-out recommended?

    At which point will a wife be told by her husband's doctor that euthanasia, "a good death" is advisable, the way parents are now told that abortion is advisable for the baby in their womb?

    Have we, like Edith Schaeffer said, created an abortion culture, a culture where anything painful, or sad, or difficult is swept away as soon as possible? Have we created a culture of such broken families that children will agree that Mom and Dad should die this way, and pat themselves on the back for thinking of their parent's best interests, and parents will think "I should do it now and not be a burden," ?

    When will it end once it begins?

    Those are my questions. I hope I was slightly coherent.
    I've been following your blog for two years, ladies. I love your thoughts.
    I think I've commented twice, maybe. I hope that all makes a little sense. Thank you for sparking this discussion.

    In Him, Faith

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    1. Thank you so much for commenting, Faith! I told Lauren that your comment was like an appendix to my post--a wonderful addendum that wisely raises very important questions. For myself, although I acknowledge that "the line" can be difficult to sort out, I know I want to stay as far away from it as I can!

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  2. Quality of life is important. Very important. And it isn't some generic person who doesn't know me to decide for me, based on his or her morals and not mine.

    I am recently in remission from breast cancer (chemo, radiation, double mastectomy, reconstruction). There is a medication that reduces the chances of a recurrence. However, that medication caused pain in my legs so severe I was practically crippled. All the doctor could do was offer medication that didn't work, and then narcotics. I didn't want to live like that. So...I CHOSE to stop taking the medication and take that risk. MY choice. It isn't your choice, my doctor's choice, my husband's choice (although he agrees with me-he witnessed the pain) or anyone's choice but mine. I have to live in this body, not you. I know I might get cancer again, but I might not. If I do, well, I lived GOOD years, hiking and walking and not in agonizing pain. It's the life in your years, not the years in your life.

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    1. Congratulations on your remission! What a journey that has been.
      You certainly do not need my opinion, but I have absolutely nothing against this choice that you made. It sounds like the best possible choice in your situation. I've also seen friends refuse chemo for the same reason. Modern medicine has produced a tangled web of ethical dilemmas, and the only way to sort them out and reach a wise conclusion is by seeking absolute Truth--through God and His Word. These situations require us to choose, yes, but not autonomously. We must choose carefully and wisely, as those who will give an account one day before our Maker.

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  3. I have a testimony of someone who was in a coma for 6 weeks and all recommended their life was over. Surprise, her husband would not consent and she came back and was working back at the bank as a teller where I knew her. All she could say was Thank you Jesus! So many people were praying for her and her life wasn't "over" as recommended by so many. What a happy person and she had to tell every one. I was proud of her husband for not giving into the pressure. Also, my cousin Janet was in a horrific car accident and broke her pelvic, neck, burst her spleen and other problems and they said she would never walk, never have more children etc. Then they found she was already pregnant! So she is hanging in traction and extremely uncomfortable and everyone is recommending an abortion. She and her husband said NO if God did not allow it to go naturally in the accident they would keep it. Of course they said he would be retarded from all the xrays and medications etc. Surprise again he was born later through a C-section (not naturally but so what) and all the negatives were so a LIE. He was a healthy son that grew up to be a productive working member of society. He got married to a lovely Godly young women and had a very good life. His mother, my cousin, did walk and looking at her now you would never even know she was in an accident. This was over 40 years ago without all the newer technology or anything. She knew glorifying God was more important and obeying His Word and she and her son are a miracle!!! Let miracles happen! Our trust can be beyond this world trusting in the God of Creation and His son Jesus! Walking miracles are among us ... doesn't mean we don't suffer but He walks through the suffering with us. Thank you Mikaela for reminding me of two walking miracles that Trusted God's Word above the obvious problem. Yes there are times to "pull the plug" as you say because our friends boys were in an accident and they ended up with that decision and waited till the swelling was doing in his internal organs and others could benefit and live from what he could give. They did it with prayerful thought and help rather than "diagnosis" of the moment. We live one day at a time and God gives grace for the moment so my thought is get help if you are in the situation and pray and let the Lord give you peace for the decision not just because a "diagnosis" sounds bad. God is bigger than that! Mamajo

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    1. Thank you for sharing those stories! How amazing! I especially appreciated your wise words here: "Let miracles happen! Our trust can be beyond this world trusting in the God of Creation and His son Jesus! Walking miracles are among us ... doesn't mean we don't suffer but He walks through the suffering with us."

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  4. This is a topic we talk about often at my house!

    I honestly don't know the answer. I am against taking things into our own hands. And that is where the confusion begins for me.

    Obviously, it is wrong to CAUSE death. That's an easy one.

    But the hard part is, is it wrong to FIGHT death? If "the only way" a person is alive is because of a combination of pills, or tubes delivering food and air and taking care of waste, or whatever medical intervention is available...Is THAT right?

    And then, if it is right, does that mean saying, "No, thank you" to those means is wrong?

    I do believe that medical intervention will only work so far as God allows. But then, doesn't that also mean that life will endure as long as God allows regardless of outside "help"?

    I'm interested to hear your thoughts and conclusions!

    To be clear - I'm not okay with euthanasia whether it is forced or requested. My confusion comes with a patient being allowed to turn down the measures necessary to keep his body "alive". And, just how far a patient should go in order to keep his body "alive".

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    1. This isn't a topic I've fully reached a conclusion on either, Victoria. It IS so rife with pitfalls! I believe any decision should be made carefully and cautiously, earnestly seeking the will of God.
      Thomas Jefferson said “The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government.”
      Faith made a good point in that taking the power of life and death into our own hands is a slippery slope. Stephanie gave us an example where she is not causing death, but neither is she fighting it. And Mamajo challenged us to trust God to be big enough to handle the situation. You clarified this cause vs. fight question on death.
      I'm learning so much from you all! I do not think mental capacity (as in the case of Terry Schiavo) or pain (as in the case of Tim Bowers) are legitimate reasons to end a life. But there are certainly times where a person's mind and body have shut down--when they have all but died and seem to be completely reliant upon a machine. This is the time to earnestly seek God's wisdom. Is there any one-size-fits-all answer? Absolutely not. But is there an answer for your situation? Absolutely!
      Where are you at on these questions, Victoria?

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  5. I would love to sit down for tea with you and discuss this. Thank you for this post. Both of my parents' lives ended based on these kinds of decisions and it is rare to find a sympathetic person. (Jennifer Heffernan)

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  6. You have truly been "in the trenches" on this issue--I would love to hear your thoughts on this! I'm so sorry you had to face that with your parents.

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  7. This is something I have thought about and discussed with my family a great deal and in case of some sort of accident I would not like to be kept alive through machines. If I had been in this man's situation I would have done the same thing. It isn't because I don't view life as precious or valuable. I do. I also think that people should not be forced to accept machines to keep them alive if they don't want it. They should have every single right to say "Turn them off. Let me die."

    Have you ever seen the documentary "How to Die In Oregon"? If not, I would recommend watching it. It explains so well why people choose physician assisted suicide. Should we force people to live in pain beyond all words when there is no hope of it ending? I remember from that documentary that one of the people said something like "I'm not ending my life, my life was ended by this disease a long time ago. I'm ending the pain." Most of us would not let an animal suffer like this yet we will force people to do so? Is it really valuing the individual person to deny them autonomy over their body?

    This is a complicated issue and it isn't just black and white, good and bad, right and wrong. With my own grandmother we could have continued keeping her alive. But we chose not to. She was in the late stages of dementia, her waking moments were filled with terror as she relived horrific abuse she suffered as a child, she continually needed hospital visits for infections. So we decided just to stop it all. Give pain medication and let her die. To keep her alive would have been inhumane.

    I could not speak for anyone else, but it would not be viewing me, as a person, as precious and valuable to force me to live on machines. It isn't just life that is precious, it is people, the individual people, who are precious and valuable and their wishes need to be respected.

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