If you were from a foreign nation looking at the United States news right now, you would think that this was a nation that had declared war on death. Or perhaps we could state it better as a total denial of death. In California, Jahi McMath, a teenage girl who has been medically and legally dead for nearly a month (death certificate was issued December 12) has been moved to an unnamed facility and given surgical procedures to introduce air, water, and food more easily while her body continues to degrade and decay.
And in Texas, Marlise Munoz, a woman who may be brain dead or may be in a persistent vegetative state (the hospital isn’t saying and the experts are split), is being maintained because of the hospital’s interpretation of a state law, so that she can be used as an incubator to keep her 14-week old fetus growing despite the wishes of her parents and husband that she be disconnected from the ventilator and supportive measures.
In California, a mother is being criticized for exercising her autonomy beyond reason to define death on her own terms. While in Texas a family’s autonomy to make surrogate health care decisions is being denied. Both of these women have become objects and tools of various groups. In California, the girl is an object of unrealistic hope and political factions. In Texas, a woman is being made into an object and tool to gestate a fetus that may never be born and may not be viable after being deprived of oxygen. Not only has the family expressed their wishes but Marlise also had deliberate and specific conversations with her family about not wanting to be maintained by machines. And lest we forget, the human incubator is also being used as a tool of politics, for elected officials trying to further their career and standing with certain political/religious/social factions to further their agendas.