Flight from Facts in the Terri Schiavo Case

 Posted by on 16 June 2005 at 7:34 am  Death, Ethics, Religion
Jun 162005

Why am I not surprised by this news?

Schiavo’s Parents Not Swayed by Autopsy: “An autopsy that found Terri Schiavo suffered from severe and irreversible brain-damage has done nothing to sway her parents’ position that she deserved to live and may have gotten better with therapy.”

I expected as much. Her family traded in facts for fantasy a long, long time ago. (Also as expected, the autopsy also cleared Michael Schiavo of their malicious accusations that he abused his wife.)

Those who savagely attacked Michael Schiavo for wanting to end his wife’s life were beyond wrong. Life is not intrinsically valuable. She had a right to end it if she no longer found it worth living. (By definition, someone in her state could not “find it worth living,” but that’s beside the point, legally speaking.) The worry that Terri ought to live because she never put her wishes into writing is somewhat more reasonable, but still wrong. The man she voluntarily chose to marry was empowered by law to make such decisions for her, should she become incapacitated. Her verbal comments about her end-of-life preferences to him were more than legally adequate.

(Frankly, I wish that Colorado law was so clear, in that I’d like the default to be that Paul is wholly in charge. Here, friends and family are supposed to reach a “consensus.” For the record, I want the plug pulled if no reasonable hope exists of meaningful intellectual work, i.e. of intelligently reading, writing, and discussing ideas. I don’t want to be a permanent moron any more than I want to be a permanent vegetable.)

Those who doubted Michael Schiavo’s concern for his wife due to his new family (i.e. his live-in girlfriend and kids) were making unreasonable, intrinsicist demands on him. He stayed with Terri faithfully for the first few years, when he had some hope of recovery. After all hope was gone, what obligation does a man have to remain faithful for years and years to his breathing corpse of a wife? None, obviously. He did so in order to faithfully execute her wishes. That shows him to be a more devoted husband than most, I think.

Even those sympathetic to Michael Schiavo’s side were often confused by his commitment to ending his wife’s life. Why not just let her parents take over Terri’s care? Were all the years of legal wrangling really worth it? If she’s just a breathing corpse, what does it matter?

Although I certainly don’t know the details, Michael Schiavo’s quiet actions suggest a strongly principled stand on the matter. He loved his wife. He knew that she did not wish to remain alive in such a condition. Perhaps he even knew that she doubted or rejected her parents’ faith. Out of respect for the person she was, he was unwilling to dump her into the nightmare fantasy world created by her parents.

Speaking personally, if Paul was in a similar situation, I would fight to my last penny to end his life. The thought of voluntarily turning him over to faith-driven family wishing to keep him alive at all costs is just horrifying. To do so would constitute a betrayal of all the principles by which we had chosen to live. The fact that he wouldn’t know the difference is irrelevant: I would know. (Happily, Paul’s parents are reasonable Christians. My parents aren’t religious at all. So I have few worries about either family interfering with our wishes in such matters.)

Frankly, I think that all reasonable people owe Michael Schiavo our gratitude. His principled commitment to his wife revealed the dangerous ugliness of those advocates of the utterly misnamed “culture of life.”

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha