After 11 years, this great modern love story of Dr. Meredith Gray and Dr. McDreamy (Derrick Shepard) ends with a happy, successful couple having sex in the morning, discussing the possibilities of having a third child, and then the wife pulling the plug on her brain dead husband that night.
I felt so weird watching that TV show last night. I liked the irony of Dr. Shepard dying from substandard medical care. It felt like the writer, Shonda Rhimes, made a wise nod to the realities of medical care in the United States. (All doctors can't all be at the Seattle Grace level!)
I got confused when they brought in the wife, Dr. Gray. I thought she did a great job of showing the total shock of having a spouse involved in a car accident. Yet I thought it was so weird that she made the decision to end her husband's life support within a total vacuum. She didn't call anyone! She didn't call her "person" either Alex or Christina Yang. She didn't call her husband's sister who was an expert in all things brain related. She didn't let anyone friend or family member say goodbye to her dying husband. She didn't even wake up her sleeping kids to say "goodbye to Daddy" with a kiss on his cheek.
The TV series showed a grief stricken wife terribly alone and making the individual call to end life support quickly for her once famous and heroic husband.
The Catholic Church does not require extraordinary measures to prolong life. I think that might surprise some people. If this fictional scene happened in real life, the church could totally support the wife's decision to end the husband's life support. (The church never approves of the withdraw of basic life saving measures like food and water. But it appears that the ventilator was "extraordinary care" in this specific instance because the husband could not breathe on his own.)
The Catholic Church, however, is a wise mother who never lets us face death alone! If the fictional wife, Meredith, was a Catholic she would have call on a priest connected to the hospital who was available 24 hours a day. The church would have given her husband Last Rites or the Sacrament of the Sick. I think the chaplain would have encouraged her to tell their daughter what was happening to her dad in age appropriate language. I hope the chaplain would have encouraged the wife to contact his sister and his parents before ending life support.
Death is scary! It's coming for all of us! It's a little intimidating to realize that when we are incapacitated within a secular medical system, all we have is our spouse to make the calls for us--calling our children, our family members, our friends, and asking our faith communities to pray for us.
When I watched this fictional TV show last night, I felt reassured about my marriage. I know that if my husband is notified that I'm in a horrific car accident, that I am not going to die without a visit from my priest, my kids, and hopefully a bunch of my fellow Carmelite Community members praying a Divine Mercy chaplet for me. I chose the right guy to fall in love with and give my Power of Attorney to!
I'm a little sad that the "perfect modern love story" for 11 years on TV not only showcases adultery, a lot of fights and a refusal to be the "trailing spouse who follows a doctor to Washington DC" but also a wife who makes the call to end life support without an independent brain activity consult, without notifying her husband's family and without prayer. It doesn't matter how cute the packaging, that scene looked like the lonely end to a pretty rocky relationship to me.
Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!