Beginning and end-of-life questions are deeply personal decisions that should be made within families. These decisions can be incredibly difficult and are often made in response to nuanced situations. In Christian families like mine, we often turn to God for guidance in making these decisions. This is a practice that Mary Hasson, a panelist at this year’s Cardinal O’Connor Conference, does not respect.
For example, despite what anti-choice extremists may believe, a secular and pro-choice worldview did not kill my great-grandfather. One such extremist, Mary Hasson, pens an article in which she treats a family’s personal decision as a cruel injustice perpetrated by a Godless worldview. The “injustice” in question is ceasing to provide nutrition to a dying patient. This is a common and caring practice often enacted in the final days of a patient’s life, but the uninformed extremist Mary Hasson brands it as “starving grandpa” to demonize the beliefs of families that come to different conclusions than she does.
Withholding nutrition does sound like a strange practice if you are not familiar with end-of-life care, but it is often the most loving and logical thing to do. For patients with advanced dementia, force-feeding a dying patient does not provide comfort, but in fact introduces stress and suffering. Medically, it does little to improve the nutritional status of a patient, and it does not appear to increase the lifespan of a patient. (More on this topic can be found here.)
Not a year ago, I received an uncomfortable call from my mother. Great grandpa’s health had taken a turn for the worse, and he only had days left to live. This was not a total shock. I had watched my great-grandfather’s Alzheimer’s progress for years, and I did not remember a time when his heart was healthy. As is typical with advanced Alzheimer’s, his body was no longer capable of swallowing and digesting nutrition. His daughter consented to not forcing artificial nutrition. Forced nutrition would have just added another burden to his ailing body. This decision was made with a heavy heart, not a callous, secular world view.
During this time, faith was an incredible comfort to my family members and me. We acted in accordance with our Christian values and provided love and care to one another. Personally, I prayed often and was able to find peace in my faith that his death was part of God’s plan.
This is not what I would call “starving grandpa.” Mary Hasson and the anti-choice community should make an effort to better understand the world around them before passing malicious judgment on things clearly beyond their grasp. If Georgetown continues to host the Cardinal O’ Connor Conference, surely they can do better to find panelists willing to give serious thought to serious issues.
Sarah Rabon (COL ’16) is a member of H*yas for Choice and a dedicated feminist.