Saturday, November 18, 2006

Mortality and Morbidity Report

Why? Because I can't focus worth a damn. I mean, that's generally the truth...but I always go to bed on Friday thinking: Okay, tomorrow I will be a writing and researching fiend and generally instead I sleep in a lot and wake up with a killer headache and futz about.

I did manage to watch an episode of House MD, and while the bright yellow Spanish subtitles were a little distracting, it was a fascinating/heartwrenching episode. Episode 3x03, "Informed Consent"...House & the team treat a hugely respected medical researcher (who has a history of using less-than-totally-ethical methods) who wants help to die. All the usualy House machinations and so on, but that debate, which continued through the episode, was really well done. I found myself 110% on side with House, of course. His take was that he would help, when and only when he knew the person's condition was untreatable and fatal. Thus, a patient refusing tests got no help from him, but one refusing pointless treatment would.

This strikes pretty close to the bone right now, as a dear-one of a dear-one is in the twilight, and so we've discussed the issue in general--that difficult but real line between not wanting someone to suffer needlessly, and wanting them to die. As I said to her (in one of those epiphanies-out-loud that I didn't realize until I said it) "It's not about wanting the person to die, because they are already. All you can choose is how." I think if people got that, the death-with-dignity debate would dry up and dissappear.

I find it totally bizarre, the extent to which my society values technical signs of life and scoffs at quality issues. Obviously we're slowly turning away from that, but things like the Terry Schiavo debacle remind me how very many people still see the issue as black and white. What really disturbed me about that was the argument that Ms. Schiavo should be kept alive because there was an off-chance that a kernal of sentience still hid within her ruined body. To me, that was another argument for letting her go. I can think of few scenarios more nightmarish than being trapped inside a totally nonresponsive body for decades. I've told my family that regardless of brainwaves or whatever, if I can't communicate, and especially if I can't be communicated to, to let me go. Isn't communication the essence of humanity?

The only caveat would be if keeping me "alive" would increase the chances of successful organ transplant. That'd be acceptable, obviously. I'm O-neg too, so I assume my organs would be snapped uo like hot cakes. The only thing I'm currently not registered to donate is my eyes, and that's just because my Mom freaked on me at the Health Card place when I was filling out the form, and I was a minor at the time. Next Health Card, the eyes go on the list. I'll admit it did wig me too originially, but it didn't take long to become accustomed to the reality that I wouldn't need them, and they could give someone their sight back. Given my screwed up hearing, and the constancy of physical pain I've experienced, I could survive without feeling or hearing, but sight? No way. I really think I'd lose my mind.

Which leads me to the second morbid discussion I've had in the last few weeks: embalming. Thanks, but no. I'm not too keen on cremation (irrational, I know) although I'd rather be cremated and buried than become an object d'creepy-art on someone's mantel. Under a tree would be nice (though most commercial cemetaries don't do that because if the tree dies, families get upset...also? I feel like the roots sometimes pull urns up). Or buried vertically, like they do in some cemetaries where the land is scarce. Or as I've said, not embalmed and buried in a bio-degradable casket so I can actually, you know, return to the earth instead of poisoning it. My impression is that this is the position of Halakic authorities too. I can only assume the North American obsession with embalming and coiffing the dead has something to do, a) with the idea that the dead will rise from their graves on Judgement Day, and thet it'd be nice if they looked respectable, and b) the general Western horror of death.

Mummification and excarnation sort of freak me out, though I'll admit to a personal attraction/repulsion to Towers of Silence ever since I read Such a Long Journey. I can't decide if I find it the most or least pure and sacred funerary rite. My general attraction to Zoroastrian cosmology does not help with the ambivalence.

Wikipedia's 2 cents on natural burial, excarnation, and a link to the Canadian Natural Burial organization.

1 comment:

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