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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

A Life


Obviously, big news this week has been the court fight between Michael Schiavo and Terri Schiavo's family. Death by dehydration/starvation is diabolical. We're not allowed to do that to animals. But we can authorize it for a human?

I don't think that a person in a coma/vegetative state should be kept alive at the depletion of all money of the family. For example, if I were in such a state, I wouldn't expect my family to engage in extraordinary measures to maintain my existence. My kids' needs come first, and they don't need to be broke for life at my expense.


If money were no object, or if they chose to keep me alive, then alive I should be. In Terri's case, both are true. There are enough donations to pay for all her needs for life, and her family wants to keep her alive.

I don't think Michael Schiavo's argument holds any water. He says that he's allowing her to die killing her because it's what Terri wanted.

Michael Schiavo was at his wife's bedside after the tube was removed and said he felt that "peace was happening" for her. "And I felt like she was finally going to get what she wants, and be at peace and be with the Lord," he said.
"Peace was happening" for her? If she's truly in vegetative state, she was at peace long ago because she is aware of nothing now.

So either she is aware and peace can "happen" for her now, and therefore she should be kept alive...

...or she is unaware of anything at all, and there's no harm in keeping her alive. Changing her condition won't bring peace or anything to her - she's incapable of it.

In either case, there's plenty of money and her family wishes to care for her.

Conclusion: Michael Schiavo is a dirtbag who has painted himself into a corner.

ETC: The Republicans (certainly not the Democrats) have passed legislation to clear the road. Michael Schiavo's reaction:

"This is a sad day for Terri. But I'll tell you what: It's also is a sad day for everyone in this country because the United States government is going to come in and trample all over your personal, family matters," he told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday.
Sorry buddy, but when she is no longer your family, this is not your personal family matter.

Michael Schiavo has another woman now, and children by that woman - he can't be considered Terri's advocate, or even her family. He's committed adultery... and then some. He's not a loving husband. He wants this to be over so that he can marry his new woman.

When the family has hope for their daughter, and when money is no object, why kill her?


Tags: schiavo | politics
by Brett Rogers, 3/20/2005 10:12:23 AM