Monday, March 22, 2010

Service to the senile

I had been to a relative's here with my parents; an old couple who had no children were residing there. The man was old, weak, bedridden, and could barely recognise us. He could mouth our names, and I could make out that he was asking me to get married :) . We made small talk with him, and came out to converse with his wife.

The wife was old too, but extremely energetic even at her age. She took complete care of her man, who was immobile, and kept calling her rather frequently for help. She was particularly happy that some relatives had come to visit, and reminisced all night. Out she took some of the oldest photos we had (those of my grandfather's mother at her young age!), and soon after she, with my parents were engaged in active discussions of what each one in the 'family' were doing.

I just listened, having no idea on who they were talking about - again shows how times have changed, with nuclear families now being the norm and little social interaction with family, but that in itself is a separate discussion.

What touched me most was the responsibility and sincerity with which she served her husband. Her husband did not want anyone else, even us, to help her out - he wanted her and only her to help him out. One could see intimacy, hope, pain, and depression, all right there. Call it a sign of the 'modern' society we live in, I couldn't help but wonder if today's men and women would help each other out in such times of need.

Another thought, now from the point of view of such a person in a senile state. (S)he might not want to burden relatives, and might consider ending his/her miserable life. Shouldn't (s)he be granted this wish? I know that the legality of euthanasia is a very old debate, but sense must prevail amongst those who are blindly pro-life. Fortunately the SC has admitted a petition raising a vital question - isn't force feeding someone in a persistent vegetative state violative of the right to live with dignity?

However, I do wonder how any court be able to pass a judgement on such a sensitive issue. For one, life and death is something beyond any human, and judges would be extremely cautious in such decisions. They would (should, perhaps?) most definitely pass the buck to the government. Maintaining status quo would result in thousands continuing to live in agony, whereas allowing euthanasia could result in a spate of fake cases, besides few genuine ones. Atleast we might have meaningful proceedings in court, and hopefully a decision on this.

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