A tale of two women

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There are two brain-damaged women who are coincidentally both in the news at the same time. Each have very different stories, and it is an interesting quandry to consider.

The first is Sarah Scantlin, who we learn has been in a coma for over 20 years. As an 18 year old college student, her life just beginning, she was hit by a drunk driver and has been incommunicado ever since.
Brain-Damaged Woman Talks After 20 Years : (Saturday, February 12, 2005 8:59 p.m. ET By ROXANA HEGEMAN Associated Press Writer)

Well, in-communicative until last week when she spontaneously began speaking. Her family is delirious with joy to have their daughter/sister back, and she is confused over what year it is. After 20+ years of semi-coma she cannot believe it is 2005.

The other is Terry Shiavo, who has been in the news off and on over the past few years. Judge denies bid to set aside Schiavo ruling (By VICKIE CHACHERE, The Associated Press, Posted February 11 2005, 5:19 PM EST )

The story is that 15 years ago Terri became brain damaged, and some doctors have ruled she is in a semivegatative state. Her husband has been trying for years to have her feeding tubes removed, an act that would doubtless cause her to die. But her parents have been fighting this, and the ensuing legal battle has been long, costly, and bloody.

Coincidentally her husband has a fiancee, with whom he is raising a family. Obviously he would want to marry this other woman, but can't so long as his wife is "alive". Also at one time he had stood to gain several hundred thousand dollars if his wife died, but that money has since frittered away due to the legal battles. This angle of the story does little to give us sympathy for the husbands cause. At the same time I can't imagine how heart-breaking that situation would be, and especially to go through the steps required to decide to remove life support from his wife.

It is hard to know what to do, as it's a difficult situation. I suppose one tends to hope that the story will turn out like Sara Scantlin's case, that suddenly the person will wake up. It would be interesting to learn the rate of recovery after long-term coma. In reality there might be little hope.

At the same time there's a larger picture, what of Terry's spirit? What is her souls' task? How can one decide the fate of another?

One thing is clear, that it is improvements in technology which has brought us this quandary. As medical technology improves, so will the frequency of this kind of persistent coma. The same quandary has happened in the past with other people, and it will surely happen again.