Mercy Killings

A decade and a half ago, Euthanasia was a controversial subject in the news. Today, we do not hear much about it. There is a fine line between a mercy killing and the psychopathic mindset of the decision best stated “I love you so I will kill you”. This fine line is upheld by the medical and legal definition of “mercy” as applied to terminal and suffering patients.

My grandmother was taken off her feeding tube and allowed to “die naturally” and a family controversy ensued. I did not consider this the wrong thing to do, but other members of my family did not quite agree. When a loved one is at the end of beneficial medical assistance and treatments, I do not believe it is correct to continue to administer measures that strain the wallet and the emotions of the family. There comes a time to make our peace.

Suicides can also be labeled self-mercy killings to end pain. I left that thought behind me many years ago. The moral and ethical question over “mercy” by death is a strange morass of definitions and condemnations. We do not deal well with the question of determining life and death.

I had a college class when I was a teenager where a professor posed the following question: “Ten people are stranded on a desert island with no food. In order to survive they are going to have to eat each other. How do they determine who will die to feed the others and who will live?” I had a simple answer. They all wait. Sooner or later someone will naturally die first. Then everyone can eat and starve less. The hardest possible concept to understand is waiting on death when death is near.

The problem in our modern day and time is that waiting on death is not something we do. We can cause the heart to continue beating without any other life functions. We can administer a feeding tube to an unconscious dying person and keep lungs breathing that cannot breathe on their own any longer. We can sustain life when the body is no longer useful. No medical attention administered to those we can help is considered legally and morally negligent. Overt medical attention in the pursuit of hanging on indefinitely is costly and strenuous on both the dying and their loved ones whom are ready to let go for the next answers.

In a world of aging baby boomers and an increased elderly population, the “mercy killing” factor raises crucial questions about the near future. There are no clear-cut answers that fit every situation, but there are legal and medical definitions that can be sustained. In the end, to sustain our own mental health we do not cross the lines drawn in the name of love. We risk our own sanity and the right to maintain the sanctity of non-determination in the realm of the living and the dead if we choose instead of accepting the boundaries drawn.

 

 

Apocalyptic Futures

We have all heard of the end of the world. There are many who believe this will happen in God’s time. I believe that mankind is responsible for the planet and that it is entirely possible to cause our own end. Choices have been ours, given since the beginning of time. Not every factor is within human control. One of the greatest worries we are facing concerns changes that happen to atmosphere and climate every few centuries. In the last few years, our Nation has been through devastating storms, wildfires deforesting many regions, and several natural disasters.

Futurists would paint us a picture of solar radiation, de-oxygenation, and rising oceans. Perhaps these scenarios are not just fools’ games chasing tail. Thomas J. Crowley in “Science 14 July 2000” states: “Comparisons of observations with simulations from an energy balance climate model indicate that as much as 41 to 64% of preanthropogenic (pre-1850) decadal-scale temperature variations was due to changes in solar irradiance and volcanism.” We cannot change the solar surface and its variations, but we can prepare our civilized world for the effects of the sun’s changeable, volatile nature. I do not believe that we are meant to ignore our knowledge basis in favor of Heaven’s decisions instead.

The wildfires of Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington have left terrible consequences in their path. There are many advocates of a deteriorating ozone layer, but the devastation of significantly reduced vegetation is of more concern to the proper return of oxygen into our environments.

Ocean measurements indicate that the waters are rising, albeit slowly. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration “NASA currently has two satellite missions that measure ocean surface topography. Jason-1, launched in 2001 continues the measurements begun by TOPEX/Poseidon, which operated from 1992 through 2006. The follow on mission to Jason-1, the Ocean Surface Topography Mission on Jason-2 (OSTM/Jason-2), was launched in 2008 and will take this important data record into a second decade.” We are not a people unaware of what is happening in our world.

I believe that we can be concerned about actual problems, cyclical to our planet and crucial to our civilizations, without panic over extinction. This does not mean that we can ignore the significance of future events by denying the need to plan for better resources to equip our needs as they arise.

I can imagine a future where there are land bulwarks created for deepening oceans and dry reservoirs created to contain and use processed overflowing seawater for irrigation and energy facilities. I can dream of photosynthesis machines to replace, with man made cells, the re-introduction into our atmosphere the precious atoms we lose in our forestation when vegetation dies. I can see a future where businesses operate at night and people do not enter the sun so freely to adapt to the sun’s radiation increases.

These scenarios may sound like nightmares, but when we worry we plan against our worries and this is not always ridiculous in our nature.

 

 

 

 

 

Pre-Determination

Predestination can be defined as knowing where you are going to arrive and, at times, when you are going to arrive at the chosen location. Pre-determination is another set of definitions all together. Whereas predestination is a plan…pre-determination is a choice decided before the time to make it.

A child, in some societies, is chosen for certain innate capabilities to learn certain trades or subjects and raised, pre-determined, as a gymnast, doctor, or street worker, etc. This is an example of pre-determination. A theatre ticket can be purchased at the movie theatre for a movie chosen before someone arrives at the theatre. This is another example of pre-determination, not predestination. Knowing, when travelling, where to go and how to get there, (provided maps or GPS coordinates), may seem like pre-determination. There are no choices involved except destination and route (which affects arrival time) so a planned trip would actually fall under the definition of predestination.

Explorers do not like the idea of predestination. Traveling roads and highways, any which way, just to see what is out there with no goal in mind is something my father used to do in the car with our family every Sunday afternoon. I would be scared we would run out of gas or that the car would break down, but we always arrived safely back at home. I do not travel often without a plan and destination in mind as an adult. This does not mean, when I take a vacation, that I plan all my events and activities out ahead of time. Usually, I prefer to arrive safely where I am going and then determine what each day will hold as each day comes.

People are different. Some people schedule their days, other people never will. Some people plan vacations and surprise parties, other people like spontaneous celebrations and spur of the moment trips. These differences should be appreciated. Compatibilities should be considered before asking people to live, work, or play together.

There is an illness that causes people to be afraid of situations where they do not know what will happen and exactly how it will happen. Pre-determination allays these fears of insecurity. This type of illness usually causes immobility in any unfamiliar situation. Foreknowledge alleviates the discomfort caused by the extreme need to have a situation under complete control ahead of time.

There is a human spirit where there is free will. Our belief systems are built around these principles. If we know, we can plan. If we plan, we feel better about what we do not know. The questions I ask are not “Who has determined?” or “Who has planned?” Instead I ask human questions: “Where are my choices?” and “Do I know enough to make them?” Not one soul on the Earth is in control of every permutation, event, and decision. If we plan to travel together, it is my hope that we learn to adapt to our freedoms to choose without demanding a common route demands pre-determined decisions.