Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Does anyone want to starve Terri Schiavo to death?
Many people claim her husband does. The poor woman is in a state that may or not be "persistent vegetative" according to which doctor you believe, and I have no idea if there is any consensus on whether or not she will ever be able to express a wish to live, or to die. And I therefore don't know if I would support killing her or not.

Dan has responded (in the comments) to my post on enforced euthanasia, and I plan on responding to his remarks. For the moment, I wish to address one aspect of his remarks that is relevant to the Schiavo case, namely the distinction between the government wrongly causing someone to die or suffer through some action it takes, versus the government wrongly causing someone to die or suffer through inaction. Dan points out that the first is worse, and I agree. Except ...

For one thing, the relative numbers matter, but I'll discuss that later. For another thing, I think Dan's position here is at least somewhat inconsistent with his disrespect for the "precautionary principle".

For now, I wish to make the point that in the Schiavo case, as in all cases where one discusses enforced euthanasia, the distinction between action and inaction becomes very vague. The "inaction" of not killing Terri involves a huge amount of very expensive, constant action to keep her alive, all without her explicit consent. The proposed "action" of ceasing to feed her -- also without her explicit consent -- can also be viewed as inaction. In fact, this is how killing through starvation or nonresuscitation is generally presented to the anti-euthanasia crowd: we're not doing anything, we're merely ceasing to do something. In other words, the proposed starvation is an attempt to make people such as Dan happier with euthanasia.

I don't think this attempt is very successful, at least not with Dan. I believe that if we are going to do euthanasia, we should do it right, even if it means admitting that we are truly performing the action of killing. I think we should treat our loved ones with at least as much decency as we treat (in most states where there is capital punishment) our worst criminals: those that we kill should be killed with lethal injection, that is, with lethal IV. We should allow them a quick, painless death. I would like to think that those people who want Terri Schiavo to die, want her to die this way. Unfortunately, such positive action is generally viewed as being out of the question in our society.

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