Life: The Beginning and The End

At the heart of so many raging debates in society today are the eternal questions of how is life defined and when does it beginning?

Science, however, manages to alter this debate on a regular basis. Let’s look at a few examples from recent news.

First, the story of Frieda Mangold (courtesy of the National Catholic Register). After spending just 21 weeks and 5 days in the safety of her mother’s womb, Freida was born in Germany. Today she holds the record for Europe’s most premature baby and ties for the record of smallest baby with a boy in Canada. A modern medical miracle, Frieda received medical treatment from her very first moments in the world – an intervention that made all the difference – and today it appears that she will grow up healthy and likely very happy to be alive.

Second, one of the articles in just posted online from the March 2011 issue of Discover magazine: Rediscovering Consciousness in People Diagnosed as “Vegetative”. The advances that this team of neuroscientists and other brain researchers are truly startling! First of all some highly intrusive therapies, which insert electrodes into the hypothalamus, have actually resulted in enabling persons once thought to be “vegetative” to speak, swallow and even interact with their family members with the assistance of deep brain stimulation, something like a pacemaker for brain – for lack of a more adequate comparison. The brain is so complex and still widely unknown by us and by the brightest medical minds of our time. However, the conclusions drawn in this article are certainly cause for consideration:

“Have we been killing people? The answer is almost certainly yes. After a brain injury, doctors may paint a dim picture of the future, and families may withdraw care. But it is increasingly difficult to predict who will linger in limbo and who will make strides.”

A number of recent studies (most recently in 2009) suggest that up to 41% of people diagnosed as being in a vegetative state are later discovered to have at least a minimal level of consciousness.

Do the researchers have all the answers, even they would say “no”. But the stories of people who are minimally conscious after a brain injury deserve our attention:

“There is also the case of George Melendez, a Texas man who, after nearly drowning, fell into a minimally conscious state and remained there for two years. He did not speak, but because he often groaned loudly at night, his mother got him a prescription for the sleeping aid Ambien. Hours after she gave him the first pill, he seemed more alert than usual. “George?” she said, and he turned to her and asked, “What?” Now, nine years later, as long as he keeps taking the drug, he can feed himself and answer questions, even demonstrate baseball grips (he used to be a minor-league pitcher). Without it his hand shakes, he cannot eat, and he has trouble speaking. The sedative paradoxically keeps his brain awake: PET scans show that on Ambien, his brain uses twice as much fuel.”

Advances in science are only as illuminating as society allows them to be. Questions about life occur every day in the hearts of women in unplanned pregnancies, families facing unexpected accidents or brain injuries of loved ones, etc. The questions pervade the culture and make their force felt in the halls of state and federal legislatures.  

The truth is that life is still a very great mystery. However, as we continue to learn more and see more cases like the ones above, it becomes increasingly clear that there are some lines that maybe even science may not be able to cross…science cannot create life ex nihilo, nor can life be sustained without nourishment. We are dependent on things outside ourselves for life at every stage.

Moreover, the value that society places on life does not determine the truth about when life begins and ends. The reality of abortion reveals that society does not value life at its very beginnings,while also undermining the value of motherhood and womanhood. Babies aborted out of fear of debilitating disease or decreased mental capacity shows that society values some lives as more valuable than others.

But we, pro-lifers of America, are part of this society. We are fighting and will continue to fight for Life, especially to be a voice for those whose voices are silenced…for those who can’t or won’t ever be heard.

Life from conception until natural death. Life: priceless, unique & irreplaceable.

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