Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Wages of Mercy

“President Bush, now championing the right of Terri Schiavo’s parents to decide if her feeding tube should be reinserted, signed a Texas law in 1999 giving spouses top priority in making such decisions.” Cox News Service

Though I love them, I would NOT want my parents (sorry mom) to be making the decisions about my end-of-life care: that is the role of my life partner. If you are married, that is your spouse; if not “legally married” (as is true for many straight and gay couples), make sure you have a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney on file with your health care provider, stating your wish for your life partner to make decisions on your behalf. Also, make sure you have had the conversation with your spouse and family, about what your wishes are. It may not prevent the awful situation that the Schaivo case has become (they were even a married couple! Jeez), but it definitely increases the likelihood your wishes will be respected.


Here’s a poem:

The Wages of Mercy

The medics tell me he's been ten years
in the nursing home, dwindling
the past few weeks, refusing to eat,
asking only for his Winstons
and to be left alone.
Tonight when he spiked a fever,
and quickly became unresponsive,
with no family, no friends
to contact, the nurses asked
he be brought here, to the emergency room,
the open hands of strangers.

His color is awful. He's barely breathing.
I wonder for a moment what all
the commotion is about,
nurses frantically starting IV's
and drawing blood and
placing EKG electrodes;
it's only death —
as if we hadn't seen death before.

I shine a penlight into vacant
eyes, touch his heaving chest
and abdomen with the bell
of my stethoscope, listening
to the pneumonia crackle and pop.

The nurses ask what I want to do,
as if we must do something, anything.

I stroke a lock of matted hair
away from the old man's brow,
order a liter of saline and
some oxygen, biding time with comfort
as I sit at his bedside,
rifle through his voluminous chart.

Cardiac monitors beep and whir,
keeping guard with their syncopated melody.

The telephone rings three times, then stops.


from Saying the World

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1 comment:

jenni said...

--“President Bush, now championing the right of Terri Schiavo’s parents to decide if her feeding tube should be reinserted, signed a Texas law in 1999 giving spouses top priority in making such decisions.” --

The hypocricy of this man disgusts me. Not just on this issue either.

I'm sort of on the fence about this issue, but leaning heavily on the husband's side. Of course, there will always be 'doubts,' for me at least, when it comes to death. Mainly I wish it could be a little less brutal than starving her, very complex situation. I feel empathy for her family, as it could not be easy for them either right now--watching my child starve to death, no matter what her frame of mind was, would be torture. I think her parents are in denial though, they are waiting for a miracle that's never going to happen. Probably best to bring closure and move on with life. The entire situation is very sad.