The Schiavo case and my recent loss
First, I extremely dislike this insistence on calling Ms. Schiavio "Terri" by people who have never even met her. It's terribly disrespectful. I am leaving instructions that upon my death, I shall be referred to as "Mr. Apikorus" by all except close family and friends when talking amongst themselves. If the rabbi gets up and does a hesped and calls me "Conservative" (my first name), I will send my ghost down from shamyim and haunt him as a dybbuk for his impertinence.
As for insisting on heroic medical measures if there's any "hope," let me tell you all that I lost a very close family member last month. This person had been fighting cancer for a year. About a week before the death, I accompanied this family member to a medical appointment, where the doctor more or less told us that the chemotherapy wasn't working, and he more or less took the patient off the chemo and prescribed some additional painkillers and some other stuff to deal with the associated gastrointestinal side-effects of the painkillers.
Now, the doc wasn't quite so blunt with the patient, he spun a web of bullshit as he described his suggestions, but it was pretty obvious to both of us that we were at the point where all you could do was wait for the malach hamaves to show up. This was confirmed when the doc took me into his office for a private chat. (Though the doc didn't use the term "malach hamaves," even though he was a Jewish doc.)
Now, was what this doc did any worse than what Mr Schiavo wanted to do for his wife? It's possible that we could have found some quack-quack MD who would give us false "hope" that some additional chemotherapy might work, but, basically, our doc was perfectly competent, and he realized that at that point, for all practical purposes, there was no hope left, and it was check-out time for the ol' neshama.
Sure, it was different from Ms. Sciavo's case in that the patient was still concious and even mobile, and had the capacity to make decisions about care, but, really, the decision was to let the patient die.
In fact, I get the impression from the way the "pro-lifers" yammer on that they would appose pulling Ms. Schiavo's feeding tune even if there had been a written living will and power of attorney. They way they talk about their moral code being the only proper code, I would fear that these sort of people would want to change the law to forbid any of us from leaving a directive to let ourselves die.
What would this have meant to my dear departed family member? That this person would have to use all the life savings to pursue treatments of dubious value? That this person would have to die in a hospital surrounded by strangers in a noisy, stressful, unpleasant place? At least this person died at home with family members present.
These aboslutist moral pronouncements sicken me. What do these "halachic experts" and "religious conservatives" know about real people and their the problems? All they do is tell us how to live our life by using instructions from a book. Believe me, the instruction book is just the first step (and a very small one) in learning about something.