Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Terri Schiavo and our Moral Confusion

Here are some excerpts of Ken Myer's thoughts on the Terri Schiavo tragedy.

Patients that are dependent on feeding tubes are not dying. And, despite the sloppy way we sometimes talk about these matters, you cannot 'let die' a person who is not dying.

I doubt that a parent who withheld food and water from their children, or a warden who withheld food and water from a prisoner, could be excused from culpability on the grounds that they were simply allowing someone to die. In none of these cases, including Terri Schiavo's, is there a dying person, just a dependent one.

In watching and reading the news coverage of Terri Schiavo's case, I can't remember hearing the word "euthanasia" once. And yet it should be clear that by withdrawing food and water from her, she is euthanized, not simply being "allowed to die."

Once we cross the boundary between killing and allowing to die, there will be no turning back. Current proposals would legalize euthanasia only for the terminally ill. But the logic of the argument—and its practical consequences—will inevitably push us further.

The real lesson of the Schiavo case is not that we all need living wills; it is that our dignity does not reside in our will alone, and that it is foolish to believe that the competent person I am now can establish, in advance, how I should be cared for if I become incapacitated and incompetent. The real lesson is that we are not mere creatures of the will: We still possess dignity and rights even when our capacity to make free choices is gone; and we do not possess the right to demand that others treat us as less worthy of care than we really are.

Read the whole article here.

The following interviews (on MP3) are available for listening or downloading (for free):

Nigel Cameron on the obstacles and opportunities facing Christians concerned about bioethics

Russell Hittinger on the reasoning behind the upholding of a right to physician-assisted suicide in Compassion in Dying v. Washington

Hadley Arkes on how the defense in the courts of the "right to privacy" has transformed thinking about law and rights in American society

C. Ben Mitchell, on why and how the Church should be more welcoming toward the elderly

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