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Peter Singer is an ethicist who works at Princeton. His position, put forward in his papers, is that "the right to physical integrity is grounded in a being's ability to suffer, and the right to life is grounded in the ability to plan and anticipate one's future." Thus, those in a vegetative state or those severely retarded enough to be unable to plan for their own future should be euthanized, or killed.

But Peter stepped back from his own determinations when his mother suffered from Alzheimer's. He did not kill her. Instead, he said:

"I think this has made me see how the issues of someone with these kinds of problems are really very difficult."
Taking an innocent life is a huge and permanent step, and if people are willing to expend their own lives in the care of someone else, however retarded, then why should they not be allowed to do so if they themselves see a reason for hope?

Who is the arbiter of hope? Society? Congress? Judges? Disinterested spouses?

There are many whose retardation was severe enough that no one thought there was any hope, and yet some of these people defied all odds and became cogent and partially functioning. In each case, it took a person who saw that hope and determined that they would make the effort necessary to help someone else. Most often, this person is a parent, and their love alone can achieve great things, If that is their choice, why should they be stopped from doing so?

I think the final arbiter of hope is the person who is hopeful. In the case of Terri Schiavo, the hopeful count among the millions.

ETC: I'm really much more torn about this issue than I expected to be - I don't know why it's sticking with me as it is.

Running through my head...

  • Should the law ever allow euthanasia, whether directly in the form of injection, or indirectly in the form of neglect?
  • Should someone have the right to determine the "quality of life" for another person who can't determine/define their own quality of life?
  • In marriage, you literally share your life decisions with another person. When does that privilege stop? At divorce? At the time that a person moves on to another relationship?
  • As the parent of my five children, how restrained could I be in the fight to try and save my child from a death like Terri's? (I think her parents have shown amazing restraint...) I imagine my son, Nick, appearing as Terri does. If I thought that he was receptive to me, I think you would need a tranquilizer gun to subdue me from getting to his room to re-insert that feeding tube.
Very heavy stuff.


Tags: schiavo | politics
by Brett Rogers, 3/21/2005 12:08:26 PM


But Brett, I don't think Terry is receptive to her parents. She makes movements and noises whether someone is in the room or not. She has no different behavior whether someone is there or not. She's been video taped for hours upon hours and the only footage her parents could get that showed her being receptive was a few seconds, edited to not show how she was being propped up.

But here's something I think the public SHOULD be looking at if indeed they are able to keep her on artificial life support. She could become the spokesmodel for bulimia. Harsh? Yes. Honest? Yes.



Posted by Stefanie, 3/21/2005 1:49:12 PM

Good lord, the poster child for bulimia... wow, that'd spin a few heads.

This is a huge propaganda thing, eh? Hard to know what to decide about her true state of mind. But you know, why not take the millions of dollars that people are willing to donate, get the best medical minds on this, and figure it out?



Posted by Brett Rogers (, 3/21/2005 2:42:45 PM

Okay, spin that around. What if it's you. You can't respond to Nick. You can't tell him you love fact, you aren't really even aware of him. Yet he sees you. He watches you as you deteriorate. He knows that if by some miracle you were to get even an iota of your brain function back, you would still be trapped in that bed unable to respond, and he may even fear you getting that iota back because then he would face the horror of you actually being conscious in that body. Would you want him to have to witness that?

Honestly, I wish they could just give her too much morphine, but for some reason, that isn't legal. As for euthanasia...well, we get back into that whole "what's worse than death" arguement and that's been pretty circular so far. My opinion is based, as all of ours are, on our own experience. I've experienced relief when someone I've loved has died, and in one of those cases the prognosis was brighter than Terri Schiavo's. It's a fine line between hope and desparation.

Heavy stuff, indeed. And obviously pretty emotional. But regardles, get a living will people---you can probably find a form at



Posted by Bella, 3/21/2005 5:19:10 PM

Like you, Bella, if it's the right thing to do, I wish that the Kevorkian option could be in play and that she could die in a humane three minutes. I liked Jack. I don't have a problem with the terminally ill choosing their own fate and opting for suicide.

In this case, Terri's getting worse treatment than we give to convicted murderers, who receive a nice sedate injection. Terri's only option seems to be either to live or to shrivel like a raisin.

As for what I would wish on my children were I in a state of affairs like that, if any of them chose to keep me alive in hope for a treatment and could afford to do so, I wouldn't take that away from them. I think each person must choose for themselves what they would do in a circumstance like that. Any choice that they make is acceptable.

But better, as you point out, is to remove the decision from them. Play my own Kevorkian in advance, so to speak. For them, no guilt and more peace.



Posted by Brett Rogers (, 3/21/2005 7:20:36 PM

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