The story of Martin Pistorious is not particularly miraculous, but it carries profound warnings for a society moving so quickly to dispatch people at the first signs of serious trouble. As a young boy, Martin suffered from an attack of meningitis. Doctors declared that he had become a “vegetable” based upon his inability to speak, make eye contact or otherwise move. He slipped into a coma. They sent him home to die.
But for 12 years, he refused to die.
His parents cared for him, despite the apparent lack of progress. His father would bathe him and bring him to a care center during the day while he worked. The nurses at the facility would sit him in front of a VCR to watch an endless loop of Barney episodes.
The problem was that Martin was totally aware of his surroundings – but unable to do anything about it.
“After two years, I began to wake up. I was aware of everything, just like any normal person. Everyone was so used to me not being there that they didn’t notice when I began to be present again. The stark reality hit me that I was going to spend the rest of my life like that – totally alone.”
Martin is now 39 years old and married.
What if some compassionate person had decided to simply starve this poor young boy to death? Can you imagine how miserable and painful that would have been? Could it be denied that, if things had taken such a course, young Martin would have been miserably murdered?
Nor is Martin’s case singular.
Kate Allat, a young mother of 39, suffered a stroke and fell into a coma. For ten days she was unable to communicate, move or even breathe on her own. But she was aware. Painfully aware that she would be unable to defend herself should some Samaritan decide to “relieve her suffering” by taking her off life support systems.
Such stories ought to inspire us all – particularly those in the medical professions and positions of power – to a place of humility. It is strikingly obvious that there is much we don’t understand about the human brain, about life itself. From a place of humility and respect for life, we should turn away from the drive to so casually discard people who need care.
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