Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Tech, Terri, and Terminal Buttheads

Okay folks, I'll admit it... I'm firmly AGAINST the holy rollers and politicians on the issue of Terri Schiavo. And the more they blather on and on over this subject, the more I'll be firmly AGAINST them on this one.

And what makes me sick is the pompousness and self-righteousness and sheer stupidity over this issue! I mean the excuses are just coming out of the woodwork!

"She's not dead, she's just disabled! You're killing a handicapped person!" That's the new line being spewed. Well she's about as disabled as she can get, folks! In fact, it's the sheer OPPOSITE of what most disabled people are like. In the most extreme cases of disability, the body is shut down but the brain is still working fine. Here it's the opposite. The body is fine, but the brain is damaged to the point where all it can do is live. The lights are on but nobody's home. She's not handicapped... and she certainly isn't handi-capable. She's a vegetable.

"You wouldn't treat your cat or dog like this!" You're right, I wouldn't... because we are allowed to euthanize a dog or cat that would be in that kind of condition. It is a simple process and works in a matter of seconds. It's still heartbreaking to see it happen, though. But right now Terri has less cognitive brain activity than a dog or a cat. And doctors are specifically barred from doing anything that we would do to a dog or cat in that situation.

And how about all of these doctors who claim that she COULD recover from her condition? Yeah, they're saying it, but they're also saying "I haven't had the time to evaluate her yet." Which means they're just guessing! Even Senate Majorty Leader Bill Frist - who is a heart specialist, not a brain specialist - is trying to give a diagnosis without fully evaluating her. (Isn't there some AMA regulation against that sort of stuff from a licensed physician?)

Well folks, I'm not a doctor. I work with computers. I probably know more about computers than Senator Frist knows about the human brain. And from what I understand of this, the best way for people to understand Terri Schiavo's situation is to compare it to a computer with a failed hard drive.

When a computer starts up, you have power going through the motherboard and processor. The first commands given are through the BIOS. Those are the commands on the motherboard that tell the computer what applications it has (mouse, keyboard, CD-ROM, floppy drive, monitor, modem, etc.) and to send power to those areas. Then it turns everything over to the operating system on the hard drive, which then goes through the rest of the start-up procedure.

But what happens if the hard drive has a problem? Well the computer will still start up, the BIOS will still run, and there will still be power to all of the peripherals it recognizes, but you won't be able to use them. If you put in a diagnostic disc into your CD-ROM, it will run a simple program that will work on all of the peripherals that the BIOS recognized on start-up. But that doesn't mean that the hard drive is fixed or that the computer can still work like it used to. If you can't access the hard drive, then you can't get the computer to work the way it is supposed to.

Now obviously there's a key difference between a computer with a bad hard drive and a human being in a persistent vegetative state... you can replace the computer's hard drive with one that will work. You can't do that with a human being.

But what if you can't replace the hard drive? What if it is permanently hard-wired to the motherboard? (Hey, computer makers do that all of the time to other applications. Why not a hard drive?) What do you do then? Would you still consider that computer working?

I'm sure the idealistic dreamer would say "Why not?" Power is still going to the key applications. The BIOS still works. The monitor screen still works. Maybe if we just give it some time, the hard drive will just... repair itself! Yeah, the hard drive will just heal itself and everything will be right as rain, and then you can use the computer to go surfing the Internet and maybe treat it to some upgrades. Sure, that's the ticket. There's absolutely NOTHING wrong with that computer that a little time and some persistent rebooting cannot fix.

My friends, THAT is Terri Schiavo's situation. Her hard drive has crashed and it cannot be replaced. She's just running on her BIOS.

And I know that it is hard to accept that. It’s hard to say that this is the situation. Terri's family expects nothing short of a miracle to happen to bring her back from her condition, and so do the religious crowd. They expect her to jump out of bed at any minute and that just is not realistic. They don't want to accept the fact that the person they knew as their daughter actually died in 1990 when her brain was badly damaged so that the only thing it can do is live. They don't want to let her go.

Oh, wait a minute… I just used an INTELLECTUAL argument, didn't I? I forgot, this is an EMOTIONAL issue. We're supposed to check our brains at the door and respond with FEELINGS and SYMPATHY and MORALS. Well that's too bad, people, because THIS IS really a matter of intelligent decisions, not religious passions. Our passions and our emotions are fleeting. They're temporary. We live and work in a system of LAWS, which are suppose to be created with INTELLECT, not EMOTION.

The last bunch of clowns who set up a government based on their personal passions was called the Taliban, and things didn't turn out so well with them, did they?

Look, it's not an easy choice to make. It never is. I'm not laughing at the idea of her dying, either this way or through any other means. It's sad. It's really very sad to have to put her body through that. But I am more outraged at religious and political groups that are using this situation to advance their own agendas. They are the ones that are interfering in this personal matter and it is high time that they be put in their place.

Well there's one more thing that needs to be said here… there's been a lot of talk about getting a living will written down to supposedly prevent this kind of mess from happening. But what you're NOT hearing in the media is that EVEN IF you have a living will, and EVEN IF you've named someone to carry out that living will, and EVEN IF you have everything signed, sealed, and notarized with all of the T's dotted and all of the I's crossed, your wishes may STILL be overruled by family members or doctors who will refuse to let you go!

In fact, I'll make a prediction right here and now: at some point in the near future, you're going to see the same religious groups showing up at yet another hospice on behalf of someone who DID have a living will filed. And you're going to hear the same emotional arguments and the same hysteria generated over this future case, even when the person had filed that living will.

Folks, this stopped being about Terri Schiavo the moment her relatives decided to get the media and the politicians involved. Now it's about religion and politics. Now it's become another front on the unholy "Culture War". It's disgusting.

Update: Guess what? I CALLED IT! There's ALREADY another court case over in Pennsylvania where the guy actually HAS a living will and it's being contested by family members. The daughter says that he doesn't want to be a vegetable and the wife refuses to let him go! See folks? It doesn't matter if you have that living will! Some family member will STILL refuse to honor it!


Sam said...

Here here David! Finally someone with something rational to say regarding the matter!

David 2 said...

Thanks Sam!