Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What I Thing About: Hearts

Former Vice President Dick Cheney just got a heart transplant.  At 71.

Now the guy is from Wyoming and when anyone from Wyoming makes it big time it's a big deal.  I mean, we're the least populated state--we've gotta have each other's back.  Do I love all of his decisions?  Nope.  Do I wish him harm?  Nope.

If you've read a paper (or online news source) in say the last 11 years then you probably know Cheney has had some heart issues and has been hospitalized on one occasion or another for heart problems.  His heart was failing.  Some gracious donor died (but keeps living--be a donor!) and that person's heart went to Cheney.

Now people are saying that "giving" the heart to Cheney was morally problematic because of his age.

I'm sorry.  Come again.

At what age do humans stop being humans deserving of compassion and life?

Don't get me wrong, I can understand the viewpoint.  Perhaps the heart should have gone to some strapping 32 year old dad.  Maybe that does make sense.  But for Cheney's family, I'm guessing giving their dad/husband a new heart at 71 makes sense too.  Now he can enjoy his life and his kids' lives.

I've seen the data.  I know there are over 3,000 people waiting for hearts.  I know 300 die every year waiting.  I've also seen how not everyone on that list is a tissue match so even if there was a 32 year old dad out there who needed that heart, it might be possible that his tissue did not match that of the donor.

I'm deeply disturbed by the lack of respect for life--at any age--demonstrated by the "he's too old to give a heart to" mentality.  What is it in our American culture that allows us to be so callous toward our elders?  Shouldn't we be respectful and hold them in esteem?

When I hear these arguments I can't help but think--what next?  I mean, maybe we should just institute a "no medical support" policy after 65.  Think how much money we'd save on Medicare if we weren't doing open heart surgeries, chemotherapy, hip replacements, etc., on people of retirement age.  That's it.  I'm starting a lobby for an automatic DO NOT RESUSCITATE law for people 65 and older.

Because those folks have nothing to give.

Nobody loves them.

They didn't serve their country or their families or make contributions.  Or maybe they did but now that they are old, they don't deserve anything because they are just wasting away, sucking up perfectly good air and resources that should be used on the young.

Want to know what's ironic here?  There was someone famous who held this exact same viewpoint on the aged and the disabled.  We refer to him as Hitler.

Life is precious.  It is precious at 7.  It is precious at 17.  It is precious at 37, 57, 71, and 97.  Life matters and we all have a right to keep living.

There is no age where medical intervention is morally unethical.  The only moral problem I see here is with people who value their elders so little that they'd suggest someone is "too old" to take proper measures to keep on living.

What I think is those people who think Cheney was too old for his new heart must clearly have first hand experience on what it's like to live without one.  I'd suggest they give lessons on how to be heartless but I don't want such insensitivity spreading.

I love participating in Shell's PYHO on Wednesdays!



  1. It's a touchy subject. I can see the "young dad" argument. But, maybe no one else was a match. And at 70+, his is still a valuable life.

    I think that I'll probably eventually get to an age where I say enough is enough and don't do anything like that to save me. But I doubt very much it would be at 70.

  2. Great blog....completely agree with you!


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