A recoverning 10-year commatose (medically-deemed "vegetative") man invited to give his story on live TV, is told he "is not a life" because he does not have a sufficient "quality of life".
We offer an English version of this interesting commentary published on November 22 on the French pro-life blog, Le blog de Jeanne Smits: Nouvelles internationales de la culture de vie et de la culture de mort (The blog of Jeanne Smits: International News of the culture of life and the culture of death).
Max Tresoldi, a man who doesn’t deserve to live?
Max Tresoldi spent ten years in a state diagnosed as “vegetative” by the medical profession, before waking up one fine day in 2001 and beginning to communicate again with those around him. He was recently invited to discuss his experience on RAI, Italy's national public broadcasting company. Journalists were discussing his case while he was live on the air. One in particular, Alda D’Eusanio, exclaimed, “That’s not a life!” and asked that she herself never be permitted to live in such a state.
Her staggering remark, taken by the young man as an expression of scorn, was commented on by the Italian bishops’ magazine, Avvenire. The story was translated by Infocatolica into French, where I found it. What a sad example of a world that reasons in terms of “quality of life,” without concern for the experience of the patients themselves.
Max Tresoldi said that during the entire period where he was considered to be in a vegetative state, he was in fact conscious. “I was there the whole time. I heard and saw everything, but I was unable to express myself.” He has spent the last few years travelling in Italy to tell about his experience and show how the love of his family was the only effective therapy: what neurologists call the “mother effect”.
When he was invited to RAI’s show, he thought he would be asked to describe his journey of hope. He was asked to have a large number of friends present in his home for an interview via video link that would be aired live. It was supposed to begin at 4:30 pm and last 20 minutes. But other discussions on the show dragged on, and the show’s time slot was nearly up when, around 6 pm, Max was finally put on air. Although tired, he summoned up a smile; he gave the thumbs up to show that he was fine; his mother tried to summarize his story for the viewers as well as she could in the remaining time, barely two minutes. Max was not given time to hold the poster he made with his own hands up to the camera—it read “I am very happy.”
The camera cut back to the studio, where Alda D’Eusanio, a guest journalist invited as an “expert”, took her cheap shot at Max: “That’s not a life! To return to life without being free, to suffer, to wear that empty gaze… I am sorry, but no!” She did not think even for a second of the boy whose right to live she was denying was watching and listening. Indignation was visible in his supposedly empty gaze, and his movements in his wheelchair expressed his frustration with the inability to shout out his feelings.
D’Eusanio continued, “This is a public appeal to my mother: if what happened to Max, happens to me, don’t do what his mother did!”
His mother’s name is Lucrezia. She brought her son out of his state by kissing him, washing him, helping him back into bed, and feeding him, helped by her husband Ernesto but also by the “crowds of friends” that Max had made at the Oratory and on the soccer field.
The hosts of the show apparently looked on aghast as D’Eusanio calmly added, “When God calls, man must go.”
Lucrezia managed to get hold of a microphone and add during the last few seconds of streaming, “I want to tell this lady that I did not bring my son back to life: my son was always alive. And his life was beautiful then as it is now.”
RAI was quick to backtrack: once the broadcast was over, a manager called the Tresoldi family to apologize. But Lucrezia was not satisfied:
I want the president of RAI himself to apologize, not to me but to my son. What has RAI become? What kind of 'expert' are they inviting onto their shows? What right does this woman have to tell my son that his life is not worthwhile?"
Through Avvenire, RAI has formally recognized the wrong done and recognized that Max’s and his mother’s witness had moved millions, and expressed their understanding and support for their family. They paid tribute to the many sacrifices that allowed Max to continue living “in the belief that life is always beautiful and it deserves to be lived to the fullest.”
And so from evil came a good: RAI ordered all its stations and shows to “pay the greatest attention to themes that engage consciences.” The head of Italian public television called Max’s mother to express her support and that of all the employees, saying that she too is a mother and would have reacted in the same way if someone had spoken about her son in that way.
There was even a “reparation” broadcast where Max’s mother was able to speak—the atmosphere was festive but emotional. She was able to say a few more words about this story of love and respect for life:
A doctor in the hospital described him to us as a lifeless trunk. So I decided to take him home. I turned nurse, and practically replaced the doctors."
The most difficult moment for her…
It was when my father died. I was about to give up altogether. It was December 28, 2008. I told Max, 'Tonight you will have to make the sign of the cross yourself; I am tired.' He lifted his arm, and made the sign of the cross. Then he kissed me hard.”
It was his first action in 9 years.