Starving & Dehydration is Euphoric, Painless – LA Times

Posted By: 'Okie' | 10:42 am — 3/23/2005 | 1 Comment See comments below:

[Update: 3/24/05] USA Today agrees that starvation is painless.

Terri Schiavo has had no food or water since Friday, which has led her parents and their supporters to complain that she could be experiencing a painful death. But neurologists on Wednesday said that based on court findings of her condition, her body gradually will shut down in a painless process that will lead to death.


I just about spit my coffee all over the LA Times this AM, when I found this story on page A21.

“MEDICAL PERSPECTIVES — Ceasing Food and Fluid Can Be Painless”

Huh? Let me bang myself up the side of the head with a brick a few times and read that again!

But doctors say that going without food and water in the last weeks of life is not traumatic, and that the body is equipped to adjust to such conditions.

doctors say” – What doctors? I’d like to avoid them if at all possible!

“What my patients have told me over the last 25 years is that when they stop eating and drinking, there’s nothing unpleasant about it — in fact, it can be quite blissful and euphoric,” said Dr. Perry G. Fine, vice president of medical affairs at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in Arlington, Va. “It’s a very smooth, graceful and elegant way to go.”

Calling Doctor Kevorkian! Hey doc, got any hemlock handy? Oh, that’s right, I’m not supposed to eat or drink anything! My bad?

Though people may fear death by starvation, it is the norm in nature — and the body is prepared for it.

“The cessation of eating and drinking is the dominant way that mammals die,” said Dr. Ira Byock, director of palliative medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire. “It is a very gentle way that nature has provided for animals to leave this life.”

Ah, glorious nature. So peaceful, such a standard for human beings to aspire to. B.S. I grew up on a farm, with native woodlands on our property. Starving is not the norm for dying in nature. Once an animal becomes weak from illness, injury or starvation, the predators swoop in, kill it, and eat it! That’s nature, you dumb . . . !

Meanwhile, the body begins mining its muscles and stores of fat to get the carbohydrates and proteins it needs to make energy.

Now, that sounds pleasant, doesn’t it. Hmmm, maybe even a little euphoric . . . NOT!

“If you mine too many proteins in the heart, it gets unstable,” said Sullivan, a senior fellow at Duke’s Center for the Study of Aging. That can give rise to an irregular heartbeat, which can cause the patient to die of cardiac arrest. Or, if the muscles in the chest wall become weak, the patient can end up with pneumonia, he said.

Oh boy! Myocardial infarction and pneumonia, now those are two great, peaceful, euphoric ways to go, you betcha. Where do I sign up?

After 24 hours without food, “the body goes into a different mode, and you’re not hungry anymore,” he said. “Total starvation is not painful or uncomfortable at all. When we were hunting rabbits millions of years ago, we had to have a backup mode because we didn’t always get a rabbit. You can’t go hunting if you’re hungry.”

That doesn’t even deserve a comment, just a rude noise.

Doctors also have a host of treatments to ameliorate acute problems, such as sprays and swabs to moisten dry mouths, and creams to moisturize flaky skin. They can also give morphine or other painkillers.

Sullivan said doctors were likely to give painkillers to Schiavo, but added: “Frankly, I think they might as well give it to each other, because it will probably be more painful for them than it will be for her.”

Oh, those poor, poor docs, having to watch Terri Schiavo die. Hey, pass the Xanax!

The court is not allowing anyone to even moisten Terri Schiavo’s lips with a drop of water, or to give her even a sliver of ice. In my Mother’s last days, we did these things to make her more comfortable, and on the day that my wife’s father died in hospice, we most certainly kept his mouth moist and his lips soft, even after his kidneys failed and his body stopped accepting IV fluids. It was the only humane thing to do for him as he passed.

The court edict will not allow anyone to give Terri water by mouth, even if she would be able to swallow on her own, and she is capable of swallowing her own saliva. What Judge Greer, Judge Whittemore and two of the three 11th Circuit Justices have done is order the killing of Terri Schiavo. Is it murder? I guess not, as it is legal. But it is killing, and not being done for anything close to a noble cause.

The death and resurrection of Christ ended the requirement for the faithful to offer blood sacrifices. There is only one entity that still requires such actions, and it’s not one of the good guys. (db)

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