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Do unto others….

Today, as I listened to NPR’s Story of the Day podcast, I was struck with the question, “What would I do?”. The story was about Memorial Hospital in New Orleans. Apparently, and not surprisingly, there were many patients during the time immediately after hurricane Katrina that could not be evacuated, either due to sporadic rescue attempts or difficulties moving them. These patients were on the 7th floor of the hospital in the long term care ward. Now this is officially unconfirmed by the law, but there were 4 witnesses who heard doctors and hospital administrators decide that certain patients in that ward (mostly those who had a Do Not Resuscitate order on file) were to receive lethal doses of morphine.

That’s right: euthanasia.

Now, I’m of two minds about this. On one hand, you have patients who either can’t be moved or moving them is a risk, patients who have already asked not to be resuscitated. On the other, does man have the right to play God? I should add at this time that it was the doctors deciding this; the patients weren’t asked. But what would you do in this situation? Could you bear to hear the cries of pain from the patients, day after day in a hospital that was reporting 100+ degree temperature, no electricity, problems with the water supply, etc.?

For myself, I remember back to my father’s death. That was, and will always be, a terribly difficult time for me. My father was lying in the hospital bed in agony. The treatment that was being given to him hurt him terribly, and there wasn’t much they could do since my father’s heart was too weak for them to medicate him strongly enough for him not to feel the pain. In the end, my father decided, with my mother there at the side of the bed with him, to leave this world. The hospital staff were wonderful during this time. Since it was known that he wouldn’t last for more than a day or so off of the medication, they administered morphine to him whenever he needed it. He felt no pain, and he was able to see many of his dearest friends and family before he left. But the decision to die was his. He made the call, not a doctor. But if he were on the 7th floor of Memorial Hospital during that hellish time…..?

In the end, I don’t know what I would have done if I was a doctor there. I hope the decision of whether or not to end a life out of mercy is never in my hands. I hope I will never be able to fully understand what the Memorial Hospital doctors’ were going through. Perhaps they should have told the patients what was going to happen. But then maybe there would have been widespread panic, through both the patients and the families that were with them.

For myself, if I was one of the patients there?

I think I would want to go in peace, to serve the Lord.

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