The issue of recoveries from comas and vegetative states raise some important theological questions regarding the ethics and doctrines regarding life, death and existence in between.
In the past, death was registered when the cardio-vascular system fails. Today, it is brain-death that is more important, since we are now able to mimic the heart’s function as a PUMP, with mechanical devices. While it is possible to keep the brain artificially alive, there is no way to mimic its function as the MIND.
It also raises the question of how badly those of us who say be believe in an AFTERLIFE really wants to let go of this one … I don’t buy the lame excuse often given that God wants us to hang around here to do some good deed and that is why we survived. In the age of modern medicine, most of us survive because we fight tooth and nail not to let nature take its course and very often, at the expense of our competitors for medical aids who cannot match our economic resources.
Q: How long should we wait while a person is in a coma but not yet dead? How long would you want your loved ones to wait for you?
1) EARLY ENTRY TO HEAVEN? Whatever anyone says, no one wants to die. And whatever the ex post facto (after the fact) explanation, no one wants their loved ones to die. It does not matter if the stated reason is because God wants more angels in heaven or because “the time has come” or God wills it, the reality is that no one pre-empts it until the medical facts are evident anyway. Bottom line: No one wants to die.
2) TIRED OF LIVING/SUICIDE: Some who try to kill themselves may be trying to find relief from psychological or physiological pain that has become unbearable. Others may face many years of incarceration without parole or a lifelong impediment to a minimal quality of life and prefer to end it all. However, most even under such dire circumstances, prefer to find some way to continue living. Bottom line: Life in reduced circumstances is preferable to death.
3) CHEATING SOCIETY: When the rubber hits the road, most people facing death are willing to cheat in order to live. By cheat I mean jumping the queue of say organ donation by using financial resources. Many TV shows on this very subject, the most recent being RESIDENT, draws attention to the difficult issues of medical ethics. Soon, we shall face just such decisions when the first Covid-19 vaccines are approved. I suspect that if you or your loved one faces certain and imminent death due to a long wait fr an organ transplant AND a quiet option to jump the line emerges …. who knows? Bottom line: You will cheat.
4) EXPLOITING ADVANTAGES: The sad reality is that we are all born into an inequitable world of disparate privileges. If you are born under reduced circumstances, your options are limited. So it is a truth that whatever you believe and whoever your God is, when you get seriously sick and you need help, your geohistory makes the difference. Your access to economic resources will allow you to stay alive while others would have long perished. Take the case of former Formula 1 superchamp, Michael Schumacher. His tragic accident has left him in a vegetative state for the past 7 years with medical bills exceeding tens of millions of dollars above and beyond health insurance. He has the best chance of anyone on the planet to survive because his family has the capacity to pay for it. When the late Senator Ted Kennedy was seriously ill, he could afford to fly dozens of neurosurgeons to his home to consider the best alternatives — the X-factor was access to funds. When Charlie Rose nearly died from heart disease in Europe, he was flown by French presidential facilities to Paris for surgery which saved his life in the nick of time.
Bottom line: Nobody really wants an even playing field. This is the inconvenient truth.