Covid-19 is still with us as we begin the year 2021. Who would have thought one year ago that we would still be immersed in this crisis? I remember the initial call to lock down and stay at home. Give it three weeks, we were told, and we will stop the spread.
As Covid-19 deaths continue to rise and a new more contagious variant has made its presence known, our healthcare systems prepare for what some anticipate being a greater demand for treatments, including the use of ventilators. I know that I was relieved when the anticipated need for ventilators did not materialize, that our hospitals did have the resources needed for patients that required the assistance of ventilators to fight the virus. I personally know of two families who lost loved ones, even with the assistance of ventilators. I also know individuals who are alive today because of a ventilator.
I was reflecting on life in the womb. This is something that I do daily because I work for a crisis pregnancy center. Many people view the child in the womb merely as a part of the pregnant woman’s body. “My body, my choice” is the slogan shouted in the public square to justify a woman’s right to choose. The unborn child, at whatever stage of fetal development is reduced to the same status as a gallbladder, tonsils or an appendix, organs that can be easily removed and the life of the mother can continue uninterrupted.
Is that really the case? If you follow the science of conception throughout the pregnancy to birth, the evidence shows that the child in the womb is a unique and separate human person. Conception creates a unique DNA identification, a DNA signature that has never been and never will be again. This new being is unique from the mother. This is not a religious or a moral argument. It is a biological and scientific fact.
The DNA signature should be enough to consider the growing mass of cells a unique human person. Is it a living being? If we define a living being as one that exhibits growth and change over time, one that consumes energy, nutrition and expels waste, then we would have to designate the child growing in the womb as a living being.
What does this have to do with ventilators? Ventilators give a patient life-giving oxygen and remove poisonous carbon dioxide. A patient on a ventilator gets nutrition either intravenously or from a feeding tube. Patients on a ventilator continue to consume energy, nutrition and expel waste, aided by devices that are separate from their body.
Early in the Covid-19 pandemic there was a fear that hospitals would not have the number of ventilators required to provide life saving assistance. Fortunately, that fear was not realized. Medical professionals, politicians and citizens all agreed that something should be done to ensure there were measures put in place to produce, and produce quickly, enough ventilators to meet the expected demand. The War Powers act was invoked to force companies like General Motors to convert automobile plants into ventilator production facilities. Medical facilities started talking about protocols they would have to put in place to determine which patients would be provided a ventilator if there were not enough to meet the demand. Most reacted with a sense of horror that value attributes were being assigned to “human” persons to determine who is worth saving, one person over another.
If a patient were denied treatment by a ventilator and subsequently died, some said those officials who did not ensure, before the pandemic, an adequate supply of ventilators are guilty of murder. They are directly responsible for the death of each human person denied treatment by devices which provide oxygen and remove carbon dioxide, working in harmony with artificial means of providing nutrition and removing waste. Devices separate from the patient’s body, devices necessary for a unique human person to continue to live. It would be inconceivable to terminate the life of the human person attached to the ventilator because it seems inconvenient to keep the person alive.
Enter the umbilical cord. I have begun to refer to it as God’s ventilator. What is the function of the umbilical cord? The umbilical cord provides life giving oxygen, removes harmful carbon dioxide, provides nutrition, and removes waste from the fetus. This genetically unique being is able to grow and live because it is connected to the umbilical cord, which does for the growing child in the womb what a ventilator does for a patient being treated for Covid-19. The difference is that we can see the person lying in the hospital bed. We do not see the person in the womb, yet each is a genetically distinct being, each relies on something outside of itself for oxygen and nutrition to continue to live. Why would you shudder in horror to disconnect the person you can see from a life-giving device yet assume there is nothing wrong with disconnecting the being you cannot see from it’s life-giving device, the umbilical cord? The child in the womb is not an organ of the mother’s body. The mother’s body is the external means of providing the essentials of life to the genetically unique person conceived in her womb. This is how every person ever born has come to be. We are unique and different, separate from our mother’s body from the moment of our conception. We rely on our mother’s body for life support until we have developed enough to live outside of the womb. “My body, my choice”?