Saturday 11 January 2014

Would you live forever?

Kerls, wollt ihr ewig leben? or Ihr Racke, wollen sie ewig leben?  Hunde and Scheisskerls have also been suggested as how Frederick the Great addressed his retreating soldiers as they ran away at the Battle of Kolin in 1757.  Translation {rogues | rascals | dogs | buggers} would you live forever?  Well would you?  Under any circumstances?

A few days ago, I left a post hanging with a challenge to look well-hard at some of the unconsidered/invisible certainties that we all take for granted now which will look silly and cruel to our grown up grandchildren.  Eeee when I were a lad it was taken as perfectly natural and indeed A Good Thing to hit children with a stick when they had contravened some rule or merely annoyed an adult in the same room. Not many people hold that view now. I couldn't articulate the certainty that was lurking at the back of my mind when I issued the challenge but it was something about chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes or Pan paniscus) and their rights.  We share about 98.5% of our DNA with a random fellow human and 97% with a random chimpanzee.  We are only now in this century beginning to accord our nearest rellies some rights. About 12 years ago, when we were busy discovering genes in the newly released human genome, it seemed obvious that we should enquire about whether those genes were present in Pan.  We were told by Dublin Zoo that a blood-sample was out of the question even after the vet had drawn some for the health and happiness of those in her care; that a hair-follicle would be too much of an invasion.  But if we filled in an appropriate battery of forms we could ask for some chimpanzee shit from which we might hope to extract enough DNA from shed colonic epithelial cells to analyse.  As chimpanzees couldn't sign an informed consent form, it was actually easier to get human samples.

But a much more relevant question has surfaced on TYWKIWDBI channelling some serious fury by Scott 'Dilbert' Adams.  This is summed up by the first anguished sentence "I hope my father dies soon.".   Adams' articulation of the dilemma as "If my dad were a cat, we would have put him to sleep long ago. And not once would we have looked back and thought too soon." tolled a bell for me because we terminated our dog Rashers  a year ago yesterday. We didn't do that casually; Dau.II was still living with us and Rashers was Her Dog.  I'll also point out that "intra-muscular ketamine/lidocaine followed by intracardiac phenobarb" is not a quick death and it didn't look easy either but it's a lot better than using carbon dioxide.  Nevertheless, I'm sure we made the right decision, and the law of the land i which we currently live agrees.

People who care about their pets and livestock have been culling them for as long as they've had them.  Putting an animal "out of its misery" is standard practice.  We terminated one of our sheep in the summer when she developed a tumour on the spine that knocked her hind legs out of use and didn't respond to medication.  The fallen-animal removal man came before the vet, as it happens, and he is licenced to shoot animals to hurry them over the line.  He did this with discretion and dispatch and it was all over a lot quicker than the drug cocktail method.

If we do this because we care and because we deplore the idea of suffering in animals with which share our space, why do we take a precisely opposite stance when we start talking about our own kith and kin?  In Ireland we haven't even established the right to dispose of our own lives as the sorry case of Marie Fleming established before the Supreme Court last April.  Fleming is in the last stages of multiple sclerosis (MS) and wants to establish the right to call it a day when she feels the time is right.  The Irish Judiciary wants to protect the most vulnerable in society from being offed by their guardians.  Justice Susan Denham invited the government to legislate for an extremely circumscribed set of circumstances in which  a right to die can be established. 

I may come back to this in 2014, because I'm interested in End of Life Issues, but for now I'll just draw attention to the disconnect, the internal inconsistency, which allows us to kill animals in circumstances where we are forbidden to kill people.  There are definitely worse things than dying.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree. Having been with both my grandmother and father at the end of their lives there is certainly a lot of thought needed in how people got to meet their maker...whatever that might be...both died in hospitals which in both experiences were far from adequate in the type of support and space they provide to families, though individuals within the system needless to say, moved all in their power to facilitate us. BTW Marie Fleming passed away over the Christmas