This is a terrible situation that cannot end well. The short version: woman in long-term coma, husband wants to starve her to death, parents want to keep her alive, judge invests the comatose woman with imaginary death-wish, legislature steps in to keep her alive. Much obfuscatory verbiage has been spread about the case, especially by people wielding the non sequitur “right to die” as though it were a mantra. Moira Breen cuts through the bullshit, here and here and includes many informative links. One of the best links is to an extremely thoughtful analysis by Peter Sean Bradley (scroll down to his top post for October 27 if the wretched Blogspot permalink doesn’t work).
UPDATE: Moira links to another informative post, this one by Carl Zimmer.
3 thoughts on “The Schiavo Case”
Jonathan, thanks for two discoveries today, Lex Communis and The Mighty Barrister. I don’t know how I’m going to keep up with all the blogs I have to visit.
” husband wants to starve her to death”
Husband wants to stop FORCE feeding her.
There is a world of difference between stopping forced feeding, and starving.
She cannot feed herself. She is being fed via a tube. The only alternative to feeding her in this way is not to feed her, in which case she will starve. Her husband wants to stop feeding her. You can call such an act whatever you want but the outcome for the comatose woman will be the same.
This woman isn’t on the verge of death. She isn’t like an accident victim whose heart keeps stopping and who needs to be constantly resuscitated; or like a terminally ill person in the last stages, who stops breathing and if resuscitated would live only a short while longer. She is instead robustly alive — in a terrible and limited condition, but alive — and needs only food and routine care to continue to live. To deny her food isn’t like refusing to use the defibrillator for the umpteenth time, it’s like giving her a fatal dose of morphine. The main difference, aside from the cruelty of denying food, is that denying her food lets the people who are responsible for her pretend that they are doing something other than killing her.
She’s alive. She’s helpless. We don’t know her wishes. The least-bad thing that the State can do in this case is to defer to a presumption of protecting helpless life. People who don’t want to end up like that should make living wills for themselves. What they should not do is project their own feelings onto this poor woman whose thoughts cannot be known.
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