Death’s Déjà vu

judge1I was sauntering through the kitchen a few days ago and there was my wife reading a news story on the computer. She was shaking her head and the headline caught my eye:

UK judge rules against parents, allows hospital to turn off baby’s life support

For understandable reasons, I confused the headline with the following:

Baby’s life-support will be switched off today against parents’ wishes: judge rules

So I asked my wife why she was reading an article about Charlie Gard, the baby who died in the UK last year at the insistence of his doctors and the decree of the court and over the objections of everyone from the parents to the Pope. My wife, a bit shocked (at the story, not me) explained that it involved Isaiah Haastrup, not Charlie Gard.

In other words, it was another case of a hospital in the UK deciding to remove a child from life support, the parents wanting to keep him alive and the court assuming the role of God.  The first headline above is about Isaiah, the second about Charlie.

Charlie’s parents lost all their appeals, Great Ormond Street Hospital pulled the plug and he died. This despite the raising of huge sums of money to continue his treatment.

Isaiah’s parents are still appealing and have a court hearing later this month, but it seems that King’s College Hospital is just itching to pull his plug. I have serious doubts that a UK appeals court will be struck with a random case of sincere Catholic moral conscience.

My wife stared at the screen; I stared at the screen.  It was like a terrible, recurrent nightmare.  I felt a cold, emptiness in my stomach.

Am I alone in seeing the irony that in sophisticated medical institutions, in one of the world’s “great” cities, there is such a disconnect between the caring image presented, the compassion claimed, and reality.

The stated mission of Great Ormond Street Hospital is “The child first and always.” Apparently, Charlie Gard existed somewhere beyond “always.”

King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust remains rated as “Requires Improvement” by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). I expect Isaiah’s parents would agree with that assessment.

Hospitals, courts, government leaders, social-service agencies are all quick to promote how caring they are, how much they want to do the right thing. But none has the wisdom to decide the time of death.  That is God’s alone.

When I wrote of Charlie Gard’s death last July, I had an eerie sense I would be writing of something similar in the future. I have the same feeling now.

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Beads over Birds

467Once upon a time, there was a Chicago radio host who tried to help nervous air travelers by loaning them his rubber chicken. The idea was that if you took the chicken with you on the plane you would have no fear – or at least your fears would be greatly diminished.

The rubber chicken was an early foreshadowing of what has become a real pain for airlines and their customers: the emotional support animal. There is a big difference in that the rubber chicken was, well, a rubber chicken as opposed to a live bird.

This came to mind a couple days ago when United Airlines denied a woman’s request to bring her emotional support animal on a flight. In this case, it was a real, live bird – a peacock.

Let me be clear; I like birds. In point of fact, I have a bird who has been living in my home for the past 18 years and is a beloved member of the family: Conrad the green-cheek conure. The green-cheek is a small parrot that hails from the forests of South America.

peacockDespite being a cute, friendly and emotionally supportive bird, Conrad never has and never will accompany me on an airline flight. It would be silly and potentially annoying to other passengers.  Conrad tends to screech during times of stress, which being locked in a metal tube with dozens of strangers would certainly constitute.

A peacock would be much more disruptive.  It is larger and could generate considerably more bird waste. It is hard for me to imagine why anyone would think it is appropriate to bring a peacock on a plane.

But I admit that I don’t know why anyone – other than a blind person with a service dog – thinks they should bring an animal on a plane.  The right to animals on a plane is not in the constitution nor bill of rights.

But in our me-first culture, many people seem to believe they have a right to bring their little poochy-woochy wherever they go. Frankly, being stuck on a plane beside a woman (sorry, but I’ve never encountered this behavior in a man) on a plane with her “purse dog” is discomforting. A non-purse peacock is absurd.

I have friends from South Africa. They never ask to bring an emotional support elephant on a plane.

I have friends from Canada. They never ask to bring an emotional support moose on a flight.

RosaryBut my friends – and I – do have something for emotional support.  It also works for spiritual support.

Prayer: quiet, easy, portable, can be done in any place under any circumstances. A useful tool for prayer is the rosary (as in beads), which is helpful for praying the rosary (prayer).

Unlike dogs, peacocks, elephants or moose, the rosary does not have to be walked, fed or cleaned up after. And when it comes to emotional support, I’ll take my rosary over any 10 pesky peacocks.