Joni shares how April’s doctors, rather than recognizing the sanctity of life, gave a stark prognosis for her recovery after she became quadriplegic.
I got off the phone last week with Barbara, a very distressed mother. Her 35-year-old daughter named April had an accident a week ago and is now a quadriplegic – close to the same level of injury as mine. April is beginning to experience hallucinations… and Barbara is in tears. Mostly it’s because the doctors have painted a very bleak forecast, telling her statistics… telling her that April may not last five years (they told me the same thing).
Doctors kept talking about April’s quality of life. And now… Barbara is questioning whether April should live… and she even mumbled something about advanced directives that her daughter signed years ago.
I tried to calm Barbara down and assure her that this was way, way too early to be worrying about such things. And I have to say, I was very upset that the medical profession painted such a dismal picture so early on.
Why is this? Because think of it: A woman with the same SCI as mine — in fact, a lower injury — is paralyzed, has tubes running in and out of her, is hallucinating (all these things were true of me, too, when I was first injured)… and the doctors, rather than give hope, have used statistics and “quality of life” language that makes April out to be a brain-dead vegetable in a wheelchair before the girl has a chance to recover at all.
This wouldn’t have happened 15 years ago, but it’s a different world now. It’s a world that is consumed with improving one’s quality of life and using that as criteria for whether or not a quadriplegic should live. I tell you, once the quality-of-life ethic was let out of the closet in the early 1990’s with the Supreme Court ruling on the case of Nancy Cruzan (a severely brain-injured woman who was disconnected from her feeding tube), it became the new standard, replacing the sanctity of life. People no longer valued life on the basis of God having created us in His image… life value is now determined by a changing set of circumstances that have to do with one’s functioning ability… and whether or not he’s conscious… the economic burden… all sorts of subjective things.
This is what Barbara was struggling against as she makes decisions for her disabled daughter. Oh, by the way, you should know that Barbara called yesterday… her daughter is no longer hallucinating… April also is able to wave to her mother when she walks in the room… she’s talking up a storm and she’s giving doctors, orders… a far cry from the vegetable she was predicted to be just a few weeks ago. That’s something to celebrate. And I think it’s something Barbara and April are going to remember this weekend as we celebrate Sanctity of Life Sunday.
Joni and Friends Radio Program #6195. Airdate January 27, 2006
Links and Resources
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The Christian Institute on Disability at Joni and Friends aggressively promotes life, human dignity and the value of all individuals – despite their disabling condition–from a biblical perspective through the Beyond Suffering course. (http://www.joniandfriends.org/BYS/)
The Joni and Friends Radio Program is a five-minute broadcast hosted by Joni Eareckson Tada. The inspirational program airs each weekday, sharing a biblical perspective on a wide range of topics. Joni shares encouragement, tackles issues related to disability awareness, and provides uniquely personal insights into life’s tougher questions. Her contagious joy and unwavering faith provide hope for those who find themselves faced with life’s crippling blows.