25 February 2008

Death revisited

Where numbers are hard to tally

It has been over twenty years since the disaster at Chernobyl. Thousands of people lost their lives, if not nearly a hundred thousand. The government covered up and down-played the disaster as best it could and suppressed the numbers of those doctors considered to have died from the effects of radiation. Doctors were even prohibited from listing radiation poisoning or subsequent illnesses from it on death certificates.

People didn't even know what they were dealing with. From the Wiki article, "In the aftermath of the accident, two hundred and thirty-seven people suffered from acute radiation sickness, of whom thirty-one died within the first three months. Most of these were fire and rescue workers trying to bring the accident under control, who were not fully aware of how dangerous the radiation exposure (from the smoke) was."

Now there is a movement to clean up Chernobyl. The company my husband works for has been asked to bid on some robots/cranes to remove and replace the immense concrete sarcophagus that is in danger of collapsing and releasing radioactive dust/debris and what else into the environment. Something needs to be done. I just hope they get it right and this time don't view the lives of the workers doing the clean-up as expendable. According to one Russian analyst, "In principle [the sarcophagus] will last for hundreds of years, but our descendants may find ways and means of moving [the nuclear] waste elsewhere or rendering it harmless." Twenty years later and what have we learned?

A co-worker of my husband's is from Russia. He was in college at the time of the disaster and was duly conscripted into the military in kind of a National Guard status. In the days following Chernobyl, college men in this quasi-military status were considered expendable and were sent to the disaster site.


Closer to home, another life might be added to an insidious and hushed tally.

Like Terri Schiavo before her, Lauren Richardson is in danger of being starved to death against the wishes of her father, but ominously and alarmingly at the hands of her own mother.

From the American Life League:

"Lauren is 23 years of age and, due to a heroin overdose, is now in a persistent vegetative state. At the time of the overdose, Lauren was expecting the birth of her baby and reports indicate that she was 'kept alive' to allow her to give birth, which she did in February of last year. Her daughter is now about to celebrate her first birthday, but Lauren may never have another birthday.

Of interest is the fact that, during the pregnancy, Lauren relied on 'feeding tubes and a breathing machine' to keep her alive. Today Lauren has a feeding tube only. But there is a struggle going on regarding whether or not Lauren will live or die.

Lauren's case is more than a sad commentary on the plight of a family battling over what each of the opponents believes would be in her best interest. Her story is a testimony to the growing philosophy in this country that some, because of their condition, are better off dead than alive.

Like Terri Schiavo before her, Lauren is not dying nor is she in a terminal condition. She has been diagnosed as someone in a 'persistent vegetative state,' someone who is very much alive but locked in her body and unable to express her desires to anyone. The only thing Lauren is relying on is a feeding tube without which she will starve to death. Lauren's mother, who is Lauren's guardian, wants the feeding tube removed while Lauren's father is fighting to keep Lauren alive."

1 comment:

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

It never ends. A mother wanting to kill her own daughter. Hmmm. Maybe I can see why heroin was involved.