Monday, December 7, 2009

Redefining Life and Death...and Mike

In "Journal Club," we chaplains have an interdisciplinary time of sharing an article that speaks to the intersection of faith and medicine, or ethical dilemmas, or bio-ethics, or ... well, we don't really have much direction so any kind of controversial topic that touches on spirituality and medicine is fair game.

One of our medical resident colleagues recently shared an article about how "Death" is being defined - and redefined - as the medical profession begins to understand that "...there is no "moment" of death." In medicine, the "moral" lines move. "Dead" means irreversibly stopped, and stoppages are increasingly reversible.

Is it when the heart stops? How can that be when the plan is to restart the heart in a new body?

Is it when the brain stops? Then we can take organs from people on a ventilator. "Failure to take body parts looks like lethal negligence."

I can tell you that this was one of the most vibrant discussions we as a team have had in our 5 or so months of chaplaincy. The medical team was spot on with all their scientific wit. The behavioral psych team got into our own fears of death. The chaplains were spiritual and religious.

Then, Dr. Kildare told us about Mike and all bets were off. Oh, you've never heard of Mike, the headless chicken? Well, talk about redefining life and death. You see, Mike was supposed to be dinner, one summer evening in 1945. The only problem was that he lived for another 18 months after his head was cut off. He grew to be 8 pounds of robust chicken and for this feat was eventually valued at over $10,000.

Who needs a head, when you can be a chicken?

Which brings us back, of course, to chaplaincy. Where is God in all of this? Well, there's a good question. I hope you keep asking.

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. Deuteronomy 30:18-20

How are you redefining life and death in this moment?

1 comment:

  1. AAAh, Mike and Kevin. Good times. What will we do for fun now?