Monday, October 29, 2007

DNR, Unless it Benefits the Party

The topic of DNR requests ("Do not resuscitate") and Living Wills became the topic of a heated discussion today, in the Women's locker room at the pool. Many Israelis do not even have a will which would protect their family, as was unfortunately the case with the 11-year old boy who lost his entire family in a car accident last month. Many women in the locker room today did not know with whom to consult regarding a will or the specific issue of the DNR, but most agreed that they would like to control their health care, and their death, as much as is possible.

Ariel Sharon, the former Prime Minister and current vegetable, has been kept in stasis for approximately the last two years, since he had his second more deadly stroke around the time of the elections. Initially, he was kept alive to give voters the impression that the party he founded, Kadima, would eventually return as their leader and as the political leader of the Israeli people. It made it easier to vote for Kadima, knowing that Ehud Olmert would be a temporary caretaker for the Lion of Judah.

Sharon then needed to be kept alive for the first 100-days, after the elections, so Olmert could technically solidify his power and create alliances, according to the Kadima charter. Now and again, the Sharon family leaks the condition of the former PM to the press, to keep the hope alive. Apparently, Sharon enjoys being sat in front of the television, along with all the medical gear keeping him alive, and particularly enjoys programs on National Geographic. He is, in Orwellian speak, "stable."

Those who may have disagreed with Ariel Sharon's politics would still applaud him for the energy and dedication that he exhibited for Israel in all his years of involvement in the army and then in party politics. He was a vital, stubborn man. By keeping him alive, it shows a total lack of respect for the legacy of his life, and the dignity of the human body.

Dignity of course can be variously defined by medical doctors, family members, Rabbinic authorities and philosophers. A cannibal might define respect of the human form by saving the brains for last; I wouldn't know, I have not been invited to their parties. Walt Disney felt it was totally dignified to sever his head from his body and put the housing for his brain in cryo-stasis, so that someday his consciousness and collective memories may be transplanted into a new vessel. The actor who played Mr. Scott (the engineer of Star Trek fame) had his remains launched into space.

I say that a person most definitely should make his/her wishes regarding their death - in both natural and unexpected cases - clear to their family. Each person deserves the right to say when they have had a proper (albeit relative) quality of life. If you do not want to be hooked up to machines that breathe, eat and go to the bathroom for you, let your loved ones know.

I have a will, not because I am actively planning my death, and not because I must provide for guardianship of children. I have a will, which includes a DNR, because I have already been shot at once and almost died, and I live in a country where deaths from terrorism and war are overshadowed by deaths from traffic accidents.

I may not have much to say, but I believe that it is important to make my wishes known. I need to make sure that my patients, and my cats, get place with caring people.

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