Monday, May 24, 2010

Culture challenge of the week: Live and let die

The last time I saw my father he was standing on his stoop, sweetly smiling and waving goodbye. As we backed out of his driveway, I thought about how healthy he looked and how grateful I was that my children and I had seen him this way once again.

Had it been up to a hospital nurse 12 months earlier, Dad would have been dead.

It is important that you know just how vulnerable you and your loved ones are to a system of medical care that is abandoning its promise not to “give advice which may cause death.”

One night I received a call from my family in Florida that Dad was dying. I was told that I should get there fast. My husband and children and I quickly made the trip for what we feared would be our final goodbyes.

Dad was in very bad shape. He suffered from severe heart problems, failing kidneys and a damaged liver. From the first moments of arriving at the hospital, a nurse pulled me aside and said I should sign a “do not resuscitate order.” “If his heart stops,” she said, “it would be cruel and painful to try and resuscitate him in his condition.”

I told her in no uncertain terms that I would not sign the order. The nurse also approached my sister with the same intensity. I soon discovered that a family friend had been cornered in the hallway and told she should persuade a family member to sign the order.

I vividly remember standing by my father’s bed and telling him, “Dad, the nurse has tried several times to get us to sign an order preventing anyone from helping you if your heart should stop. I told her that we will not sign, that we want you to have all the help you can get.”

I’ll never forget how my father looked up at me with worried eyes as he told me he had been approached numerous times by the staff to sign the order. There he was, heavily medicated at times, vulnerable and trusting that he would be cared for, yet pressured to sign an order he found immoral — an order that would deny him the very care he had gone to the hospital to receive.

My father was released several days later to be with his family. He was expected by the medical staff to die at any moment. But they were wrong. Dad didn’t die that week, or the next, or even the following month.

On two separate occasions, Dad’s heart failed, and a quick response from EMTs got it pumping again. He began recovering: His kidney function doubled, his liver returned to a healthy state, and his heart grew strong enough to have a pacemaker implanted that gave him a new lease on life.

Because we were firm in our belief that life is precious, that medical professionals should not withhold basic procedures that can save lives, Dad had the opportunity to live.

How to save your family members from premature death

My father was a physician for nearly 45 years. During his practice, he watched in disbelief as medicine began to change from a “healing art” that focused on “the good of the patient” to a “science” that works for the “good of society.”

Although many in the medical community still have healing as their first priority, others have adopted the philosophy that only the fit should survive, that the “professionals” know who is better off dead, that the value of life is determined by someone else’s definition of “quality.”

I originally shared this story about my dad several years ago, but it is incredibly relevant to what is happening today. The euthanasia movement has infiltrated the medical community for many years, and with the new government-run health care program that is killing freedom and insurance and care choices, it is certain that the elderly and very ill will be the primary victims of medical care rationing.

To understand the depths of the threats to the vulnerable, visit the website of the International Task Force (, where theres a phone number you must have handy if your ill loved one is being denied food and water or other basic life necessities: Liberty Counsel attorneys intervene, for no charge, on behalf of the vulnerable: You can contact Matt Staver at 800/671-1776 or learn more about them at

Final goodbyes are just that — final. I’ll always be grateful that Dad’s didn’t come on someone else’s schedule.

Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at

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