Friday, April 29, 2005

A Terry Schiavo prequel

Consider this excerpt from "The Revenge of Conscience", by J. Budziszewski, from the June 1998 issue of First Things:

"First we were to approve of suicide, then to approve of assisting it. Now we are to approve of a requirement to assist it, for, as Ernest van den Haag has argued, it is "unwarranted" for doctors not to kill patients who seek death. First we were to approve of killing the sick and unconscious, then of killing the conscious and consenting. Now we are to approve of killing the conscious and protesting, for in the United States, doctors starved and dehydrated stroke patient Marjorie Nighbert to death despite her pleading "I’m hungry," "I’m thirsty," "Please feed me," and "I want food." Such cases are only to be expected when food and water are now often classified as optional treatments rather than humane care; we have not long to go before joining the Netherlands, where involuntary euthanasia is common."

Eerily familiar... Budziszewski goes on to draw us a map:

"As any sin passes through its stages from temptation, to toleration, to approval, its name is first euphemized, then avoided, then forgotten. A colleague tells me that some of his fellow legal scholars call child molestation "intergenerational intimacy": that’s euphemism. A good-hearted editor tried to talk me out of using the term "sodomy": that’s avoidance. My students don’t know the word "fornication" at all: that’s forgetfulness."

We might expect some similar trajectory from the sad case of Terry Schiavo, if we're not careful. I personally don't believe that her husband was such a bounder as he's been made out to be in the dextrosphere. Who knows, maybe I would have cracked along the same fault lines as he did, under the pressures of expense, loneliness, hopelessness, family strife, and that huge malpractice award. But I'm glad that such a huge fuss was made of her case. We did cross a line by pro-actively putting this woman to death, justified or not. Crossing it indeed ought to give us a stout bump.

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