Marriage is love.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Poignant Op-Ed

Keeping Faith With My Father
Published: March 23, 2005 in the New York Times

Binghamton, N.Y. — LATE last November my sister and I made the decision to let my father die....When we got to his room we saw what I can only describe as a version of our father. As time went on and his Alzheimer's disease progressed, it seemed as if we were continuously offered new versions of him...those fleeting versions quickly departed and we were finally offered up the person who lay before us in the hospital bed. I think of him as absent-eyes daddy. He was there, he blinked, he coughed a bit because of the pneumonia he had contracted for the third time that year, but he did not seem actually there. It was as if he'd left and somehow, in keeping with the symptoms of his disease, forgotten to take his body along...

I could not help but imagine how violating and inappropriate it would have felt if politicians had weighed in on our decisions about Daddy last November. There are a number of people I would trust to make informed and humane decisions about my father; neither the president nor any member of Congress is among them...For me, it all boils down to a simple question: when does saving a life mean stealing a death?

Ms. Schiavo's case is more complicated; there is a morass of competing claims of family members and no living will to tell us what she wanted herself. The entire debate exists only because of the absence of a single piece of paper...The only way for people to ensure they die with dignity, should they end up attached to any kind of technology that aids survival, is to set their own ground rules. Family members cannot always be trusted because, like me, they can be blinded by love. And elected officials, as if we didn't know already, can be blinded by politics. You have to make provisions...Maybe someday there will be a small space on the back of driver's licenses, below the box to check to become an organ donor, where people can delineate their wishes. Until then, it is imperative that we tell everyone we love - and maybe even a neighbor or two we don't know so well - what we want.