How often have we watched with ecstatic delight as a small child and sometimes a new born infant is rescued in the aftermath of a hurricane or earthquake disaster? Often these children and their lives represent a sign of hope and joy despite the insurmountable magnitude of catastrophe.
However, it seems that there are some who do not delight at the prospect of a new life when tragedy has struck, and in the face of heartbreaking loss would rather add to the mortality rate.
The current case of Marlise Munoz, 33 in Texas, U.S.A is one such case. Marlise was found unconscious on her kitchen floor, probably as the result of a blood clot in her lung and was later pronounced brain dead at hospital.
Her husband Erick asked the hospital to turn off her life-support but because his wife was 14 weeks pregnant the hospital was obliged by Texan law to keep her body alive even if it went against her known wishes.
Munoz’s family fear that the loss of oxygen that killed Munoz’s brain may have also harmed her unborn baby, now of 19 weeks gestation, although these fears have not been definitively validated by doctors. Her husband, father and mother are adamant that that their wife and daughter would not want to live in her current condition and say the doctors will decide what to do with the foetus when it reaches 22 – 24 week gestation, the point at which it will reach viability.
This case has sparked heated debate from a number of quarters as to when life begins, whether an unborn child should be recognised as a separate person and whether the presence of a previously wanted child’s life overrides a mother’ expressed wishes for her own end of life. There are also those who say that because an unborn baby cannot live outside the womb Munoz would have had a constitutional right to an abortion.
While I defend every person’s right to express their personal opinions, surely we can find some common ground despite our differences.
If we were to take a step back for just a moment and call a truce on our strongly held personal opinions about which rights we believe override all other rights, we would perhaps behold a mesmerising sight, one that would rally within us sheer awe at the wonder of our humanity.
Consider this: A woman who is medically dead and will never again see the light of day is giving her child a chance to gaze upon the world that she once knew. Life from death and a gift from great loss: that is a miracle waiting to happen and one that would not lack witnesses.
Why is it that we would rather fight for rights, than witness a miracle? Have we become so bent on advocating for autonomy that we have lost sight of ourselves and can no longer tolerate or care to see the incredible potential that we as members of the human family possess?
Shall we not fight for and celebrate humanity? It is both our hope and future if only we would open our eyes to let beautiful possibilities become reality.
Helena Adeloju is currently studying for a Graduate Certificate in Bioethics.