Have you heard about Cassandra? She is a seventeen year old girl with lymphoma who is currently being forced against her will to 1) stay in a hospital 2) receive chemotherapy treatments that can cause life long damage and infertility.
There’s a huge debate between her rights as a person who should be able to choose her own destiny and the medical necessity of extending her life because……, well……, life.
But the issue brings up a deeper point for me that I believe we need to consider as a society.
In this day and age, thank god, we don’t have to worry about dying from a simple little thing like a tooth infection or strep throat. AIDS is very close to being lassoed and corralled and robots are helping with surgeries now. Our medical technology is wonderful and as a wearer of digital hearing aids I am grateful for its advances.
Yet in our effort to maximize our lifespans, I am concerned that in the end we lessen the overall value and meaning of life. You see, if just any life, as long as it is breathing is considered sacred then it seems we’ve crossed a line between what is beneficial and what is obsessive.
Is it life when a person is faced with nothing but doctors appointments and blood tests, day in and day out, sick to their stomach, pumping themselves full of pills to counteract the disadvantages to chemotherapy? Is it life when a young girl is left infertile and faced with decades of other biological consequences from the poison they are forcing her to take now? Is it life when a soul is trapped inside a body that has no function and is completely dependent on others for its care?
I contend that there is a big difference between simply living in the most base sense of word as we are redefining it, which seems to be merely breathing, and in being effective, being able to appreciate each breath, and being able to control our own destinies.
If we allow our definition of life to include increasingly poor quality in the interest of longevity, then we lose respect for what it means to really live and what it means to be alive and living. Our time is too short as it is, do we want to water down its meaning as well?
My thoughts are with Cassandra and her family. May they navigate this difficult time with grace and may they have strength to LIVE according their own terms.
Peace kids, and make it a good day to be alive.