(Trigger warning – sexual abuse)
After his 34-year-old wife Laura Levis suffered a devastating asthma attack and later died, the Boston writer Peter DeMarco wrote the following letter to the ICU staff of CHA Cambridge Hospital who cared for her and helped him cope.
His letter, published online in the New York Times on October 6th, went viral. It goes on for quite a long time in detail about the incredibly kind and compassionate care that the nurses gave him and his wife.
Here is the part that I have a huge problem with. This occurred in the hour just before she was to go into organ donor surgery – where her organs were to be what is euphemistically termed as “harvested”.
These are his words.
“I nestled my body against hers. She looked so beautiful, and I told her so, stroking her hair and face. Pulling her gown down slightly, I kissed her breasts, and laid my head on her chest, feeling it rise and fall with each breath, her heartbeat in my ear. It was our last tender moment as a husband and a wife, and it was more natural and pure and comforting than anything I’ve ever felt. And then I fell asleep.”
This is from the same person who observed earlier in his letter, in talking about the nurses – “When you listened to her heart and lungs through your stethoscopes, and her gown began to slip, you pulled it up to respectfully cover her.”
His wife was comatose and dying. Yet he found it acceptable to engage in a sexual act on her – obviously without her consent. It wasn’t “with” her – she was present in body only. She did not participate.
He thought it was respectful for the staff to cover her up – yet he felt it was OK for him to uncover her.
And then he felt it was OK to write about it in a public way.
I am sickened by this man.
I’m sorry that his wife died, but I’m more sorry for her spirit that he felt it was OK to violate her dignity by his action – and then again by publicizing it.
Let’s make this clear –
Just because he is married doesn’t mean he has full access to her body, at all times. It is still her body, and her decision as to what happens to her. It is never OK to perform a sexual act on anyone if they are unconscious – even if they are married to you.