(Pew R. FactTank) 5 facts about Americans’ views on life-and-death issues

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A 13-year-old California girl is at the center of the latest national debate about end-of-life care. Jahi McMath was pronounced brain-dead in December following complications related to a tonsillectomy to treat sleep apnea. A legal battle between McMath’s family and Children’s Hospital Oakland ensued, forcing the hospital to keep the girl on a ventilator. On Sunday, citing a court order, the hospital released McMath to her family (via the Alameda County coroner).

In another case, in Texas, Marlise Machado Muñoz collapsed in November and now has no brain activity. Her husband wants her taken off life support, citing her wishes, but Muñoz was 14 weeks pregnant when she collapsed and Texas law requires expectant mothers to be kept alive.

The two situations highlight the complicated nature of end-of-life questions. A recent Pew Research Center survey explores Americans’ views on the topic, ranging from the morality of suicide to personal preferences for end-of-life care. Here are some of the key findings...

Read it all.

Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchHealth & MedicineLaw & Legal IssuesLife EthicsReligion & Culture* International News & CommentaryAmerica/U.S.A.

Posted January 9, 2014 at 6:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

As Sanctity of Life Sunday approaches (the one closest to Jan. 22nd, the grim anniversary of the notorious Roe vs. Wade decision), this brief report provides valuable grist for the mill for small group discussion.  As our society ages and grays, end-of-life issues are inexorably becoming more widespread and urgent.  I think that soon the hour is coming, or may already be here, when euthanasia becomes as important a moral battleground as abortion.  I’m so glad that Anglicans For Life’s mantra is defending life, “from conception to natural death.

The stat that jumped out at me was Fact #3 (last paragraph), where the poll shows that 47% of Americans favor laws that would allow doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients, while 49% are opposed.  IOW, a virtual tie, a dead heat, so to speak.

What a huge chsllenge this poses for the Church.  We have to do a much better job of helping people distinguish between allowing loved ones to die from natural causes by withdrawing needed medical support and letting nature take its course, and actively helping the patient commit suicide.  Morally, those two things are very different.  The first is acceptable, the second is absolutely forbidden in Christian morality.

Like many readers, I know something of the dilemmas posed by complicated end-of-life issues involving loved ones.  My mother was only 75 when she died in 2005, but she had had Alzheimer’s for at least five years, getting progressively worse until little was left of the woman I loved so deeply.  In the end, it was simple old pneumonia that got her.  Her Alzheimer’s had gotten so bad that her mind had forgotten how to control the throat muscles and she couldn’t swallow.  She ended up with food in her lungs, caught pneumonia from it, and soon succombed.  Fortunately, she had left us with a detailed “living will” with clear DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) directions.  I had no qualms about encouraging the medical staff to heed her DNR wishes, so they didn’t treat her pneumonia with strong antibiotics.  I was the next of kin and I allowed her to die a natural death, but I would never have assisted her in seeking to kill herself.

Dafvid Handy+

January 9, 11:43 am | [comment link]
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