Life Support

Part of a living will states that you don’t want to be on life support. This can mean anything from artificial ventilation to artificial feeding. If you are unable to live on your own, you don’t want artificial methods to keep you alive. This is presuming that you are not likely to recover.

How far can we stretch this idea?

If a person isn’t able to exist independently, is she on life support? Say she can’t go to the grocery store because she has become so feeble that she cannot drive. Or he is so addled and confused that someone else has to pay the water and electric bill. They can’t exist on their own for very long without another person taking care of them. She’ll starve, and he will freeze in winter or die of heat stroke in summer.

Are they on life support?

What about the person who was born profoundly mentally or physically disabled? Every day, all day, for the rest of his life someone has to take care of his every need. He is not able to have anything resembling a normal human life without another person taking care of him.

Is this life support?

What about the wife who can’t figure out how to do anything in the house when her husband leaves on a business trip? The water heater breaks and she calls one of her children (who lives in another state) to come clean up and get a new water heater.

Is this life support?

Because of our modern society, we are all dependent on each other. Very few people grow their own food. The water and electricity we use is brought to us through the ingenuity and ability of others. Few of us have built the homes we live in. Our education is provided by others.

Is this life support?

A few people are homesteading. Some people have gone as far “off the grid” as possible. They take care of all their own needs. I read a story about a couple who had built their house, dug a well, and grew their own food. They wrote books and taught classes on how to do this. Because they had simple needs, they didn’t have to make much money. When the husband got older, he became infirm to the point that he felt he was going to be dependent on others. He made the conscious choice to stop eating so he would die, rather than have to make someone else have to take care of him.

So that begs the question – is everyone in a nursing home on life support? They are all dependent on other people for their existence.

What is life support, after all? In a way, aren’t we all on life support?