Thursday, March 31, 2005

We don't treat DOGS like that!

That's a refrain I've heard time and time again during the debate over the Schiavo tragedy. This time it has not been the euthanasia side arguing that we treat suffering dogs more compassionately than we do suffering humans. Shockingly, it has been the pro-life side and this has, in my opinion, set a dangerous precedent for those claiming to argue for life.

They are right, of course. We don't treat dogs like that. When dogs collapse and are unresponsive, no one calls 911. We may rush the dog to the nearest vet hospital, but I don't know anyone who would insist on numerous attempts to get the heart started, a month of life support while the dog is in a coma, and especially not 15 years of care for a dog who cannot function enough to eat on his own. I've met some people who have gone to extraordinary efforts and great expense to prolong their dogs' lives, but I don't know anyone who has had their arguably non-responsive, or even disabled, dog on a feeding tube for years while waging protracted legal battles on its behalf.

You're right, all of you who have argued that we don't treat dogs like this. We don't.

But Terri should not be compared to a dog. Certainly no one has done so, at least not directly. However, to bring up the dog analogy is illogical, emotional rhetoric.

When my first dog, our family's beloved sweet and beautiful German Shepherd who filled my childhood with joy and wonder, suffered from painful rhematoid arthritis in her hip, as well as cataracts and deafness, when she was in pain and unable to do the things she wanted to do, we took her to the vet who assured us that her condition was untreatable and that her pain would only increase. My father and I stood by her and shouted our last words of affection in her ears and pet her and wept so much that the vet's assistant was overcome with our grief. I know it sounds silly, but you would have had to have known this dog. We were with her as she died peacefully and quickly.

Years later, I was at my brother's bedside. He always liked to joke that he was part dog. Part of his humor was doing things like complimenting someone's hairstyle by saying, "I like your fur," or saying "paws" instead of "hands". Yet, when his body was wracked with cancer, his hip completely and painfully destroyed by arthritis, and he was far more diabled than our dog, we didn't---according to the euthanasia proponents---treat him as compassionately as we did my childhood pet.

We don't treat DOGS like that! We don't make them linger on when all hope is gone. We don't make them suffer needlessly.

My brother, despite all his jokes about his paws and his fur, wasn't a dog. Humans are not dogs and should not be treated as dogs.

There is a sanctity of human life message in there. I believe that we have dominion over the lives of our animals, but not over the lives of others. If Terri truly desired not to be kept alive by artificial means, should the courts play God and overrule her wishes?

While I don't believe there is any meaning or purpose in allowing our pets to suffer, I cling to the hope that there is some meaning and purpose in human suffering. I have to believe that and I have to believe it desperately. Too many loved ones of mine have suffered and I have allowed them to go on suffering. You're right. I haven't treated my dogs like that.

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