The essay “A Crime of Compassion” was written by Barbara Huttman, who was not only a nurse but had been misdiagnosed with kidney cancer and given only 6 months to live. Having made the decision to avoid medical care even while in pain I believe gave her the insight to better care for her patients, patients who sometimes cannot speak for themselves and are left to the will of those who are supposed to love them.
One of those patients was a young police officer with lung cancer whom she wrote about. Having come into the ER a strapping young man full of life and vitality only to find devastating news that would eventually reduce him to nothing but a breathing corpse. Within a short time he had lost most of his bodily functions, was in unimaginable pain and while he begged to die often; the staff kept resuscitating him. In the end the nurse relieved him of his pain and ended all of his suffering only to be labeled a murderer! Mrs. Huttman’s description was so detailed you could almost smell the decaying flesh and hear him pleading for release, like you had been witness to the once strong and healthy cop waste away. While some may only take from this story compassion to end suffering or the love and dedication felt by the hospital staff and the wife of the suffering patient but what I see is the selfishness of love and the need that men have to play God.
Having recently lived with a similar diagnosis and forced to undergo a treatment that I did not want this essay only furthered my curiosity into the working of the human heart. What right does any man have to prolong the life of another as he begs for death. When an animal is injured and there is no recovery to be seen it’s the compassion we have for another living being to put them out of their misery! Why then, would we allow the people that we are supposed love and cherish to suffer and waste away in front of our own eyes powerless to stop it? Why would we force someone to continue in immense pain as they beg to die?
Yes, there is kindness and compassion in the heart of every man to ease the suffering of others, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to house the homeless, and to put down the suffering animal, but it is the selfishness of love that causes us to prolong the life of others when they themselves have lost the will to live. It is that same selfishness that has given man the need to play God and force life upon those whose quality of life they wouldn’t want for themselves.
However in some cases the patient is at fault too! A persons overwhelming need to take care of those they love which can cause them to feel as though if they do let go that they will essentially be deserting their loved ones. So they hold on; they fight a fight that they do not have the will or strength to fight. Sometimes miracles happen and people do survive; forever tainted by side effects of sickness and treatment.
In these cases it is still pure selfishness that overrides the will of God. Men have NO RIGHT trying to decide who lives and who dies. Especially considering there is no fool proof treatment or explanation. Sometimes, for some people; treatment works but for others it does not. WHY BOTHER?
Murderer is the wrong word for this nurse, of this I am sure, and while the more accurate word is just on the tip of my tongue, my mouth fails me in this moment. I hope that if need arises I have a nurse with such bravery and compassion. I know from experience that the pain of cancer is so excruciating that it twists your insides till all you can think about is not being in pain. I know that the chemo treatments poison you and eat you from the inside out, not only affecting your body but also your mind; and if they work then you praise God and hug your kids tighter knowing you have a chance to redeem your wrong doings, but when they don’t work the kindest option left is death and to be refused relief from the agony by someone who has sworn to care for you or love you is the cruelest most selfish form of love.
Between the knowledge I have from being both patient and caregiver, the insights from “A Crime of Compassion” and the recent experiences I had with my family and my Doctors; I pray that in the future those who love me will see fit to ease my pain when the time comes and if I choose to undergo treatment again I hope they respect my wishes over their own. For in the end I will be the shadow left and there are no words to ease the pain of a lost soul. There are many ways to die without disappearing completely and I pray that if the time ever comes there will be someone who respects my wishes enough to let me go for if they fail me in my moment of need I will offer no forgiveness.