Ice runs in the veins of the NY Times editors! On Saturday, they stood ready to wack Terri Schiavo. And on Sunday, they dropped the last pretense of compassion and called for the execution of both Bambi and his mother.
I should try and take the Times more seriously (and I am taking the Schiavo case very seriously). However, since they have surrendered their weekend edition to The Onion, I am just trying to play along. Here, to round out the merriment, is a Times Comedy Classic inspired by Terry Schiavo:
Experts Say Ending Feeding Can Lead to a Gentle Death
To many people, death by removing a feeding tube brings to mind the agony of starvation. But medical experts say that the process of dying that begins when food and fluids cease is relatively straightforward, and can cause little discomfort.
"From the data that is available, it is not a horrific thing at all," said Dr. Linda Emanuel, the founder of the Education for Physicians in End-of-Life Care Project at Northwestern University.
In fact, declining food and water is a common way that terminally ill patients end their lives, because it is less painful than violent suicide and requires no help from doctors.
...Once food and water stop, death usually comes in about two weeks, and is caused by effects of dehydration, not the loss of nutrition, said Dr. Sean Morrison, a professor of geriatrics and palliative care at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. "They generally slip into a peaceful coma," he said. "It's very quiet, it's very dignified - it's very gentle."
The process of dying begins in the kidneys, which filter toxins from the body's fluids. Without new fluids entering the body, the kidneys produce less and less urine, and the urine becomes darker and more concentrated until production stops entirely.
Toxins build up in the body, and the delicate balance of chemicals like potassium, sodium and calcium is disrupted, said Deborah Volker, an assistant professor of nursing at the University of Texas who has written extensively on end-of-life issues.
This electrolyte imbalance disrupts the electrical system that triggers the action of muscles, including the heart, and eventually the heart stops beating.
Thank heaven for experts! Well, as various states rule out specific methods of execution for capital crimes on the basis that it is cruel and unusual, it is good to know that we can always fall back on "death by dehydration", with the endorsement of the NY Times.
And remember, the next time you overhear someone saying "I'm dying of thirst", just answer, "Yeah, ain't it great!"
UPDATE: More on Terri Schiavo's "quiet, dignified, gentle" exit here - "Terri's Exit Protocol".
MORE: Lots of info at The Terri Schiavo Information Page.