I was listening to a commentary titled, “Language Makes Difference to Cancer Patients.” Do Not Resuscitate, a “DNR order,” was the topic. As the speaker, Debra Jarvis, a chaplain for the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance spoke, I was reminded of my own concern. No, I was not worried that I might pass, at least not now or anytime soon. I was not thinking of the tentative nature of my own life or even that of others. I was not thinking of the tentative nature of my own life or even that of others. I was contemplating the power of words, first those of this clergywoman and then the words of our President.
Chaplin Jarvis was sharing an anecdote. Recently she met a dying man, a strong man, a former athlete, and she empathized with him. Brian was a cancer patient, his diagnosis: “terminal.” Chemotherapy treatment had failed; it brought him closer to death. Hope waned. Brian knew that he wanted to pass at home, to be in the company of friends and family. He was already in a hospice program and yet, he refused to sign a DNR order. Doctors did not want him to experience further pain. They were frustrated by Brian’s reluctance to consent. They turned to Chaplin Jarvis.
The chaplain went to Brian, explaining, that if he did not sign the order, “heroic measures”‘ would be taken. The medical personal would pound on his chest, zap him with electrical paddles, and then there would be the incubation. Still Brian said no to the authorization.
Brian felt that if he did not allow the medical staff to resuscitate him, then he would be admitting defeat. He would be giving up; he would fail in the act of living. Failure was not an option for this competitor. While speaking with Brian, Ms Jarvis remembered, some hospitals call DNR’s, AND’s, Allow Natural Death. That was what Brian wanted. He wanted to die naturally and ultimately he did.
The story of Brian took me to this, ah, the power of words. In George W. Bush, we have met the master. In recent years, he has made the idea of war is seem ever so delightful; war is no longer a killing frenzy, it is “Operation Enduring Freedom.” Occupation is no longer an authoritarian stance; it is “liberation.” “Building an empire,” “imperialism” is now known as “spreading democracy.” His Dad, Bush 41, had already introduced us to the “kinder and gentler” phrase for [accidental] civilian deaths during combat; they are “collateral damage.” Sending our young to far away lands with stop loss orders, poorly equipped Humvees, and inadequate counseling now equates to http://www.optruth.o… >”Support our troops.” What will the power of words bring next?
For further possibilities, please read Talking Points Memo by Josh Micah Marshall