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Mama Deb
.:::.:....... ..::...:
Mama Deb [userpic]
Thoughts shallow and deep

There is a young Marine lieutenant in the office. He is tall and redheaded and in a dark blue uniform, and I keep sneaking looks at him. Especially when he left to make a cellphone call...

1. The Federal government has absolutely no place in this, and no one should make political hay out of a family's tragedy.

2. To my husband and others: If I am *ever* (God forbid!) in such a position, do not do anything to hasten my death. Do not starve me to death or deny me essential care. Maybe do not do anything prolong life other than essential care and whatever is needed for comfort, and please consult our rabbi at every turn, but do not hasten it.

Re: A good editorial from the New York Sun

The concepts in the editorial are mostly good. There's just one problem:

Mrs. Schiavo is more like an infant or a helpless old person or an Alzheimer's patient, unable to eat or drink on her own, but able to breath and survive if helped to eat and drink.

This is in serious dispute. From all accounts of the doctors who have examined her, and not the edited videotapes, she can breathe and may (I've heard conflicting reports of this) be capable of swallowing, as a reflex, if properly stimulated.

CAT scans from some years ago show that her cerebral cortex (in which all higher brain functions are performed) degenerated long ago, and has been replaced by spinal fluid. All medical knowledge indicates that adult brain tissue never, ever regenerates.

In my mind, that makes her at best a goses. I have inquired elsewhere about the definition of death under halacha; it's a serious inquiry, and clearly relevant. If there's no personhood remaining, and no hope of it returning, is the body alive or dead? And if dead, what should be done to bring cellular function in line with the definition?

Not easy, and not in any event anything other than tragic.

Re: A good editorial from the New York Sun

All medical knowledge indicates that adult brain tissue never, ever regenerates.

Please don't believe that I'm trying to make this point in the Schiavo case, of which I don't know enough; but this is not so certain. There have been instances of braincells re-routing information & expanding to allot brainpower to information usually otherwise processed. The correct assessment here, is that medical knowledge knows very little still.

Re: A good editorial from the New York Sun

With regard to rerouting, yes, the brain does that. What you're thinking of, though, is all done within the segment of the brain called the cerebral cortex. If it's damaged, thought and memory processes can happen in ways that would not normally have happened, taking alternate pathways and such.

The problem is that Ms. Schiavo apparently has essentially none of that portion of her brain left. The initial damage and further degeneration (common in this sort of case) have left only the portions of her brain responsible for reflexes, such as breathing and regulating heartbeat. There's nothing to reroute within.

While medical knowledge is, in fact, limited compared to what there is to be known, in all of the body of knowledge currently accumulated there is no indication of cerebral cortex material regenerating in an adult. That's what I was trying to say; not at all that we know everything about the brain. But everything I have seen, all the evidence, suggests that the portion that made her a unique and aware being, is gone.

I just wish there were some way to handle this that was less painful, all around.