In due course, every sparrow falls to the ground. It is nature's way. Many critically ill patients die too soon and their family and friends are often not prepared to let them go. Argument is made in So Falls a Sparrow that the first goals of medicine are to affirm the sacredness of human life, to relieve pain and discomfort, and to diagnose and cure disease. Therewith, to move on to more complex decisions of withholding and withdrawing medical intervention when the burdens of treatment outweigh the benefits and when life is pitted against life. Multithousands of patients with neocortical (upper) brain damage like Terri Schiavo, are sustained by technology in horribly debilitated non-sentient conditions for indeterminable periods of time, existing in netherworld states worse than death. Justice thus delayed is justice denied for significant numbers of hapless patients and adds to the burgeoning costs of national healthcare delivery. The thesis of Sparrow, in part, is that the Schiavo case revealed not only a wholesale lack of ethical, legal and medical knowledge among the lay public, but also at critically important levels of our nation's socio-political infrastructure and leadership. This discourse is intended to be a primer to be read by laypersons or to be used by pastors and other healthcare professionals in conversations or in teaching situations with their parishioners, clients, or students.
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About the Author
Robert Henry Crumby is a graduate of Rhodes College, with postgraduate degrees from Presbyterian Seminaries in Richmond, Virginia and Louisville, Kentucky. He earned the professional Doctor of Ministry Degree in Social and Political Ethics at Vanderbilt University. In 1992, he redirected professionally from the active Presbyterian Ministry after 36 years of pastoral service with churches and communities in Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee. He was Adjunct Assistant Professor of Medical Ethics and Associate Director of the Center for Clinical and Research Ethics at Vanderbilt School of Medicine, taught Clinical Medical Ethics at Meharry Medical College, was a consultant in clinical ethics for Hospital Corporation of America, and founded centers for clinical ethics in two H.C.A. Medical Centers in Nashville, Summit and Skyline. Retiring altogether in 2003, Robert and Judith, his wife of 54 years, have 2 daughters and 1 son, along with 6 grandchildren.