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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Riddle me this
Written by: Beck

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I wasn't going to say anything on the Terri Schiavo case. Part of the reason is because the case has been so thoroughly covered elsewhere. What's more, Answerman already wrote a fantastic piece on the subject. I also share thoughts in common with Dale Franks who aptly observes:
I'm troubled by the fact that Ms. Schiavo is not in a coma, or on life support, and we are ordering her to be bumped off. I'm bothered by how easily the right to die becomes the right to kill. I'm bothered by the fact that perhaps someone who let it be known to her husband that she would rather die than live in a PVS is being forced to live for more than a decade. It bothers me that the parents have offered to pay for Ms. Schiavo's treatment and allow Mr. Schiavo to keep the money and he refuses. It bothers me that elected representatives condemn Mr. Schiavo for having a girlfriend and children by her, as if he was supposed to put his life on hold while his wife remains in a PVS [permanent vegetative state]. It bother me that Bill Frist, a cardiologist, is making pronouncements about PVS, a neurological problem that he is not particularly qualified to pass judgment on when compared to a neurologist, even if is is the go-to guy when you have a bad ticker. It bothers me that there are about 35,000 people on feeding tubes like Ms. Schiavo, all of whom may be implicated in a decision to have the plug pulled because they aren't really people anymore. It bothers me that the pro-life people are essentially calling Mr. Schiavo and his supporters murderers. It bothers me that those on Mr. Schiavo's side consider their opponents to be ignorant Christers who want to pull us back into the Dark Ages.

In fact, everything about this case bothers me. I can't think of a single thing I like.

[...] And yet...and yet, I would prefer to err on the side of life than simply shutting off Ms. Schiavo's food and water so she can slowly die of dehydration
But then a stray comment I heard on CNBC triggered a chain of thought that I felt deserved addressing. So here's the question I put to you:

Why is it that the government put Dr. Kevorkian in jail for helping people of sound mind--whose wishes are clearly and undeniably to die--pass out of this world painlessly, but the government is passing a death sentence on someone incapable of stating her wishes?

This question is a tougher knot to untangle than it may at first appear. First, it's not even an apples-to-apples comparison. In both cases, the decisions have been made by state governments, and since they were in different states, different standards necessarily apply. The very principle that states can make their own decisions for how to regulate their citizens is at the heart of federalism, which I generally support.

But there are cases where a state can be flat-out wrong, and federalism must step aside to allow for the "greater wisdom" of the nationally diverse central government. Were this not true, there may well still be states in the South where "colored people" drink out of separate water fountains.

Also, where & how does conservatism fit into the equation? In the case of religiously grounded conservatism, Dr. Kevorkian was a murderer, as are Terri Schiavo's doctors. From a secular conservative standpoint, quality of life and the ability to make informed, mature, adult decisions become relevant. I personally find nothing wrong with what Dr. Kevorkian was doing in principle; however, the impact of allowing him to go around assisting suicides degrades the overall mindset and direction of society in a direction where someone like Terri Schiavo can be legally murdered based on what is essentially a legal technicality (specifically, the fact that her "husband" is her legal guardian--despite his engagement to another woman with whom he already has two children--rather than her family).

And here, alas, irony rears its terrible head. Conservatives got their way and put Kevorkian in jail on principle, but acting on principle failed to retard the slide in culture to the point where the entire nation now looks on while a woman is starved to death by her own doctors. So is society doomed to follow in the path of Europe where before too long Alzheimer's sufferers will be receiving 280th trimester abortions?

Yeah, pretty much. My evidence to support such a conclusion? Simple: Dr. Kevorkian is in jail, but Terri Schiavo is being killed off on a legal technicality.

(Cross posted to the Blogger News Network)

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