The insanity of it all
Today I read an Op-Ed piece by David Brooks that simply got under my skin. In his piece entitled Morality and Reality Mr. Broooks has the gall to assert that so called "liberals" on the issue of Terri Shiavo have "no morals":
What begins as an appealing notion - that life and death are joined by a continuum - becomes vapid mush, because we are all invited to punt when it comes time to do the hard job of standing up for common principles, arguing right and wrong, and judging those who make bad decisions.
You end up exactly where many liberals ended up this week, trying to shift arguments away from morality and on to process...
Then, if social conservatives tried to push their moral claims, you'd find liberals accusing them of turning this country into a theocracy - which is an effort to cast all moral arguments beyond the realm of polite conversation.
Once moral argument is abandoned, there are no ethical checks, no universal standards, and everything is left to the convenience and sentiments of the individual survivors.
That such commentary made it's way past editorial review is beyond me but someone needs to respond to such nonsense and I'm going to do it.
This piece is full of blatant red herrings and completely mistates the true position of those of us mis-labeled "liberal" (Whatever that should mean). First let me deal with the issue of "santity of life."
At no point do we who support Mr Schiavo, claim that Terri Schiavo has a "right to die." Indeed our argument is simple and draws it's authority from the very founding principles on which the United States was organized on ( aside from that little slavery thing). That principle is that the Federal Government (nor the states) can willy nilly run up into the private lives of individuals and dictate what they can and cannot do. Furthermore that ones life, liberty and property is ones own, the state cannot take or interfere with any of the aforementioned without Due Process of Law. Specifically extending this position is the issue of patients rights. A patient has the right to refuse any and all treatment. Furthermore, law has alwahys recognized that the spouse has rights when it comes to medical decisions in the case the patient is unable to communicate. Thus we have the legal reason why this entire process as it is now is illegal and Unconstitutional.
Furthermore, the Religious Right and its "Anti-Abortion" wing has claimed this issue as thier own. They claim that just as a fetus cannot speak for itself a ABBD (All But Brain Dead) person also is like a fetus that must be accorded "legal protection" agains "Murder." This specious argument falls flat on it's face in the face of reality. Fetuses can be expected to develop into fully functioning persons. That is their prognosis is for improvement towards "normalcy." In the case of the ABBD, the prognosis is simply "More of the same." The same being sleep, wake,sleep, wake. Eyes open, mouth open, moan, sleep, wake,....death. In fact was it not for human intervention Terri Shiavo would simply not be alive today. So the religious argument that this is a moral isssue falls flat. Terri's continued "Survival" is a product of mans insistence on playing God. That is not a discussion tha Mr. Brooks wants to have either.
The last "sanctity argumenty" that has been trotted out is that of disabled people. There they were, in thier wheelchairs, discussing how they felt that society will throw them away. Who told them that? Being wheelchair bound is far different from being ABBD. Even Christopher Reeve had more life and more potential for life than Terri does. The disabled groups did a further diservice to thier message by comparing those of us in favour of limiting government interference to Hitler and the concentration camps. When Move-On.org posted a movie which compared Bush to Hitler, the Republicans had them for lunch. I see no such outrage from the Republicans now. BUt of course they are good for being two faced and dealing in double standards.
Let's move to the medical issues. Of late Terri's parents have attempted to hoodwik the public by saying that Terri spoke and said 'I want." I now see that a great many people in the public, or at least in certain segments of the public are extremely stupid. Someone who has not spoken anything for 14 years suddenly spoke. What part of "higher brain functions not there" don't people understand? In order to speak one must hav access to th area of the brain that holds our vocabulary. Then we must access the area ( most likely the same, I'm not a brain specialist) that allows us to form sentances. Then we must access the part of the brain that regulates the movement of the mouth, the lungs to force breath in the manner in which we do when we speak. Furthermore, in order to say anything in response to verbal stimuli, we must first comprehend that which we heard which adds a whole other level of complexity and neccessary processes to the ones mentioned before. Since Terri Shiavo has been unable to speak, not even responses to pinching (I'm assuming that she's been tested for pain responses since those are the easiest to illicit, if not a cruel meanns of illiciting a response) Why would anyone even believe that somehow she is now speaking simple sentances when she hasn't even said "OW!"
So exactly what is the position of those of us who are on the side of Mr. Shiavo? Simple, Each individual has the right to determine what is and is not done to or on thier bodies. If a person wishes to be in a vegetative state for 14 + years and they told thier spouse as much. End of discussion. It happens so long as the hospital is willing to do so. If someone does not want to be a vegetable for 14 years then that should be respected by the hospital. The State should have absolutely no say in the matter. The real danger is that someone in government gets the idea that life is so "sacred" that someone with Cancer or other medically treatable disease will find themselves in a position where they cannot refuse that treatment. Mr. Brooks fails to see the issue for what it is: An issue of individual liberty, even the liberty to choose to end "life sustaining" medical treatment. This brings me right back to the Church-State issue. This is clearly a conflict of Church and State because those in support of Terri's Family make thier claims on religious grounds. and those grounds are Christian grounds (mostly, I haven't spoken with each and every one of them). By passing this law, motivated by religion, the state has endorsed a religious position despite the fact that most Christians are against the state doing so. What other religion based edicts should we expect in the future? Who knows, but with the mainstream press unwilling to challenge these people and expose them for what they are. With a judiciary that does not have the balls to stand up and indict legislators and executives who are clearly abusing their positions, we should expect a whole mess of religiously inspired laws to regulate the activities of the rest of us.