Thursday, September 16, 2010

Murder and Suicide at Johns Hopkins: My Take

This has not been a good day at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.

You've probably read about the shootings in the news. If not, Here's a short recap: A doctor at Johns Hopkns, orthopedic surgeon David B. Cohen, told a fellow named Paul Warren Pardus, 50, about the condition of Pardus' mother.

Mr. Pardus then shot the doctor in the stomach, shot and killed his mother and finally shot and killed himself.

At the end of the day, the score was three perforated bodies: two dead, one expected to live. So, as we say in Minnesota, 'it could be worse.'

Dealing With Bad News

Mr. Pardus isn't available for comment at this time, but his brother speculated about why Paul Pardus killed their mother and himself:
"...'I guess because he thought my mom was suffering because the surgery wasn't successful and she probably wouldn't be able to walk again,' he said about a possible reason for Pardus' actions. 'She was a dear, sweet lady.'..."
Associated Press, via FOXNews (September 16, 2010)
Apparently surgery last week hadn't helped her arthritis and rheumatism.

There's some good news coming from this: I haven't run into the euphemism "mercy killing" yet, or a 'compassionate' discussion about how much nicer it would be to simply kill old people who can't run around like they once did. Maybe I didn't look in the 'right' places.

Experiences: Unpleasant and Otherwise

I think the late Mr. Pardus' actions are - understandable. Not right, not proper, not correct: but understandable.
Parents Getting Old: What a Bummer
Both my parents died last year.

In my mother's case, it was the end of a process that started in the sixties, so I'd had plenty of time to get used to the idea that she wasn't firing on all cylinders any more. My father's health took a rather sharper turn for the worse, and I'll admit to being a bit shocked when I saw him once. He'd lost a lot of weight, and his arms weren't as robust as they'd been a year before.

So, yes: I think I understand how upsetting it can be, having a parent who's not the strong, lively person one remembers.
'Quality Lifestyle' - a Matter of Attitude
Back in my - teens, I think it was - a compelling argument for killing people who didn't measure up was that they wouldn't live a 'quality lifestyle.' You know: being able to run and jump and stuff like that.

If I thought that it was 'quality lifestyle' or nothing, I'd have killed myself a long, long time ago.

I've been blessed with congenital hip dysplasia - a five-dollar phrase meaning that my hips weren't formed correctly. I've written about that before. (February 3, 2009)

The point is that, by the time I was 13, an x-ray of my left hip looked like late-stage arthritis, and my right hip was nothing to brag about either. A 'medical expert' said I'd be completely, totally unable to walk - at all - by the time I was 16. I finally got replacement parts in my fifties.

I can't remember ever waking up and saying to myself, 'whoopee! Every step I take, lurching around today, will hurt! Ain't that great?!' On the other hand, I've never thought that I'd rather be dead than crippled.

If I'd spent the years since 1951 being dead, I'd have missed out on a lot: including getting to know my wife and our four surviving kids. Our kids would have missed out on everything - and I'm wandering off-topic.

Not by much, though. I think it's important to remember that people who are alive can make choices, and can do things. Dead, our options are somewhat limited.
Meditating on Waikiki, Fred Astaire, and a Zit
Sure: I'll never surf the waves off Waikiki; climb Everest; or tap dance. But, much as I'd like to have emulated Fred Astaire: On the whole I don't mind having been alive.

I could have decided that life wasn't worth living because of what I couldn't do. But the angsty 'I've got a zit, I could just die!' attitude never really made sense to me.

I've felt self-pity. I've felt lots of things: but I also make an effort to feel with my endocrine system and think with my brain, not the other way around.

I decided that life without tap dancing was not only endurable: it could be fun. Being interested in just about everything helped. That, and being able to read.

Back to Johns Hopkins Hospital, and a Murder-Suicide

I hope and pray that the surgeon who was shot will recover, that everyone involved who is still alive will get the help they need, and I pray for the repose of the soul of the fellow who shot his mother - and, of course, the "dear, sweet lady" whose son murdered her.

What?! Praying for the killer?! And a suicide, to boot?!

Yes. I've written about this before. (January 28, 2009) Bottom line: murder is wrong and we shouldn't do it. Murdering oneself is really wrong, because by ending one's own life, a person drastically limits his or her options for repentance.

But - although the Catholic Church teaches that suicide is wrong, we can't give up hope for people like Paul Warren Pardus.
"We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2283)
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Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

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