Monday, March 21, 2005

Wrong Questions

"Would you want to live like Terri?" and "Who would want to live like that?"

Dory at Wittenberg Gate and Melinda Penner at the STR blog both point out that these questions are the wrong questions to ask when a person who is disabled is being starved to death.

Melinda says:

Would you want to live that way?


But what follows from that?

I suppose the “argument” is supposed to go this way: Would you want to live that way? “No.” Then you shouldn’t live that way and neither should Terri Schiavo. But that’s a non sequitur – it doesn’t follow. Just because I don’t want to live that way, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t or wouldn’t live that way if that’s the condition I found myself in. The challenge doesn’t provide any justification. It certainly doesn't provide any justification for imposing the conclusion on someone who can't speak for herself. And, in fact, it's a dangerous premise to accept.


Would you want to live crippled, unable to walk? No? Then kill Franklin Roosevelt the summer he contracted polio. Would you want to live as a quadriplegic? No? Then kill Joni Erickson Tada as she lay in her hospital bed after her diving accident. But, you say, they've lived productive lives, accomplished great things. True, they have, but that's treating their value as mere instruments. Would it be okay to kill them if they hadn't accomplished good things? I suspect that many of us would not want to live that way despite what they've accomplished, but that doesn't mean it would be okay to kill them.

Dory adds:

No one has suggested that Terri should be "allowed to die" because she is dying anyway. What is being suggested is that she should be caused to die because her life is not worth living. "I wouldn't want to live that way," people are fond of saying. Well, thanks for sharing, but that's not really the point, is it? What if I decided that I wouldn't want to live as a diabetic with all the challenges that disease presents. Does that then justify me killing a diabetic child or spouse? Dare I argue that to suggest otherwise is to interfere with "a personal family decision?"

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