Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tenderness and the Gas Chamber...

Flannery O'Conner wrote in the introduction to The Memoir of Mary Ann tenderness deprived from the source of tenderness leads to the gas chamber." A few years later, Walker Percy wrote the very same quote in his Thanatos Syndrome novel, although he had never read O’Conner’s work. Is it a mere coincidence that these two Catholic authors saw an attribute liked to compassion as a threat to individual people? Recently, my wife and I have had some difficult experiences with the medical community. We are expecting a child and are having some difficulties with the pregnancy. The doctors have repeatedly tried to convince us to end the pregnancy, even going so far as to say that we had no hope in seeing our child alive. One doctor specifically told us that it would be better for our child to be dead than to be born with a handicap. Another doctor told us that if we chose to end the pregnancy it would be ‘defined as a miscarriage’ rather than an abortion, it was a lie to overcome our objections. I have even caught doctors in more apparent lies where they misused medical evidence to persuade us that we had no hope. We are struggling to get the treatment for our baby, as doctors seem to wish to make things worse. We have met some strong people along the way, but among the doctors there are few who value every human life. While the quote from Percy and O’Conner may seem inappropriate opening for a brief writing on the U.S. medical community, it offers some insight into the struggles we are suffering through. The doctors who are trying to push us to abort our baby all think that they are doing the right thing and are being merciful toward the life they are destroying. It is ironic that if we have problems in our delivery, the only people who can step in and use the proper techniques to deliver the baby are the very same ones who perform abortions whenever a patient has any imperfection or is confined to bed rest for a few months. Their reason suggests that the removal of suffering is more important than something they consider a ‘potential’ human life, rather than a unique and unrepeatable person. The priceless human is discarded in this mentality, but this is the wrong approach to the person. Every person has a desire for the infinite, for Christ, and this is worth more than the entire planet. Although modern medicine has adopted the ‘gas chamber’ as a recognized technique for dealing with imperfection, this tenderness leads only to death and emptiness. It attempts to substitute something trivial for the important and destroys the heart of individuals who follow and accept it. It is a tenderness that, as Percy and O’Conner suggest, leads to the gas chamber.

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