Murder by Judge

In a previous piece on the situation with the Schiavos and euthanasia (Choose Life, March 19), I noted in general terms the trend towards a general acceptance of killing off inconveniently handicapped patients. Last week, Harvard student Joe Ford puts the case into specifics, in an article for the Harvard Crimson. (Hat tip: Powerline.) Ford, who has cerebral palsy, tells about the doctor who tried to starve him at birth, and notes the specific actions of groups of people with an interest in ending the lives of the disabled.

The whole piece is worth reading. But most striking to me was this passage:
In 1997, the executive director of the Hemlock Society [now called End-Of-Life Choices] suggested that judicial review be used regularly “when it is necessary to hasten the death of an individual whether it be a demented parent, a suffering, severely disabled spouse or a child.” This illustrates that the “right to die” movement favors the imposition of death sentences on disabled people by means of the judicial branch.
Is this out of some sense of pity for those who are supposedly suffering? I doubt it, at least as a primary cause. Note that the quoted statement indentified individuals in terms of their relationship with someone else, presumably "normal." In other words, the major problem being fixed has to do with those who interact with the badly disabled.

What problem in particular is at issue? Clearly there are monetary issues; the care of an incapacitated person is expensive, and a social utilitarian would argue that the money would be better spent elsewhere. Also, care for the incapacitated can often place tremendous psychic strain on the caregiver, and takes a great deal of time and effort. But I think that these are not the main issue; after all, Terri Schiavo's parents have repeatedly tried to gain custody of her, and if the wellbeing of the caretaker was the primary issue, then few people would argue against Terri remaining in her parents care, given that they want her so badly.

I think the major issue can be identified in a statement that has been bandied about by the talking heads as representative of the views of much of America: "I wouldn't want to live like this." There are two ways to read this statement. Either, "I wouldn't want to live like this, therefore Terri clearly would not either"; or, "I wouldn't want to live like this, therefore nobody else may."

Why on Earth would anyone even consider the second statement?

Think back to the last time you saw an incapacitated person (especially a mentally incapacitated person), who you did not know well. When you saw that person, what reaction did you have?

I can tell you, because I have similar reactions: unease, disgust, horror, pity, a sense of wrongness, and underlying it all, a deep and terrible fear. A fear that I myself could end up the same way, and the frightening realization that it could happen so easily.

(Those who know me could note the hypocrisy of my having such a reaction, given my own situation. I do all the time, but it rarely seems to help. In a way, my own situation makes such feelings more intense, because "There, but for the grace of God, go I." It's something I am working on overcoming, slowly.)

This fear is incredibly threatening, especially in this modern era where our society tries to banish fear from life, as much as it can. Coming face to face with human malfunction punctures our unconscious illusions of omnipotence, and for a brief instant reminds us that we are mere flesh and blood. In the modern world, this will not do. So how can a society that worships human ability and omnipotence respond?

By removing the cause of this overwhelming fear. By removing, if need be destroying, all those who inspire such fear in others, so that "normal" people can live out their days free from unease.

It is this overriding denial of mortality that confronts us, and that we must confront. We cannot simply sit by, while the instruments of justice themselves are used to obliterate people whose only crime was in inspiring fear. It is an abomination before God and humanity.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is inconceivable to me that if someone truely loved a person, he could agree to starve that person to death -- a truly horrific way of dying. Do we think that life is so cheap that we can throw away the "inconvenient appendages" which we have previously made commitments to. Will the phrase "til death do us part" mean until we conveniently remove the burdensome party. I know someone who is very near and dear to me who is not as vibrant as she once was because of a crippling medical condition. However, if she were to be taken from me, even though her life is severely constricted by paralysis and she is not currently living close, my life would be immeasurably poorer for her absence. I can understand Shaivo's parents, as a parent myself, what I can't understand is why her "husband " is so intent on her murder. Just let her out of his life and back to her parents and be gone with a clear conscious. Don't be a murderer.