Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Question - 29th March

The Schiavo case, as it presently plays itself out, raises the fundamental question of whether a family’s desire to keep their incapacitated relative alive should over-ride that person’s right to die?

Any thoughts, comments?


MH said...

If anything, the Schiavo case shows that the idea of a ‘right to life’ is being taken too far – would it not have been better for all parties involved if the patient had simply been allowed to die years ago?

MelbournePhilosopher said...

I support right-to-die, but a drug overdose may have been more kind than starvation.


Samuel Douglas said...

Presume\ambly starvation is considered an option because it is passive, 'letting' her die rather than activley killing her (not that there seems much between the two in this case). Also I had been led to belive that she is being hevily sedated as during this time. Not that she can feel any of this, as far as any neurologist, other than the one employed by Jeb Bush)can tell.
One lesson to come out of this is to make sure that your wishes for how your life might be ended in a situation like this, are well documented. Tis would at least ensure that your own preferences are taken into account, instead of having various parties with various interests fighting over your vacant shell.

MH said...
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MH said...

Why is it, then, that euthanasia is considered to be morally repugnant, when any rational person would consider a single 'lethal injection' (trying to avoid the awkward connotations of the term) a more humane option? Why must society, given the claims we make regarding our civility, force individuals to undergo considerable suffering because of an insistence upon a right to life?

As I understand it, a 'right to life', as such, functions in our society simply to prevent us killing each other for no reason. Now, the two times that this 'right' may be flaunted - during abortions, and war (the possible third is capital punishment, but that is frowned upon) - are both instances of there being a reason to flaunt. In the first, killing is allowed on the basis that a mother-to-be would have to have reasons, however personal, to want to terminate her unborn child. In the second, war is considered to allow for individuals to kill each other because that is the nature of war and wars qua wars are not fought without reason. Yet, it is not allowable for a person who is more likely than most to die to kill themselves to prevent their continued suffering. Why is it not possible to consider sever/terminal illness/disability sufficient reason to allow assisted suicide?

Hippoplatypus said...

Again, so many people base their opinions on the basis of their own religions. Not anyone in these comments, but all over the media.

Cooly McCool said...

There are some things ethically which appear to be no-brainers, and this is one of them. When considering 'right to life' then you must have what might be considered a life to have a right to. By life, the simple function of living isn't enough to qualify, as an ability to choose life is essential to the notion of having a right to to it or more to the point, you must be able to value life as to desire its continuation implying some level of awareness. Further, by implication, if you have a right to life, you must have the ability to waive that right - a right to death, which is seemingly being suspended in this instance if you grant that she has the ability to decide at all. I believe the operative term in all this is not life itself, but 'quality' of life, which is being overlooked as the debate is more about that she is not 'alive' enough to choose, therefore mainly for religious reasons, some people argue the default decision is to remain 'alive' based on some inherent quality of humans basic dignity. The irony is that many would argue that by keeping her alive in a vegetative state, she is being stripped of any human dignity.

Two things of interest in all this is that a) human rights are historically a very recent concept, originating with the french revolution, (maybe earlier, such as the concept of 'birth right' during the english civil war, but still no more than 400 years) and b) that the right to life has only evolved very recently with the ability to prolong life much beyond natural limits - a right to life can only be maintained if a society's birth and death rates can be closely controlled on the level of individuals. This would not have been an argument 80 years ago: she simply would have been dead and you might ask therefore, by what fact should she remain alive if the only reason she is 'alive' is based on technology being able to maintain her in a vegetative state? This is not however an argument that the use of technology to keep someone alive is wrong, but that a new realm of what is considered alive somewhat dubiously has been created.

MH said...

I, broadly, agree with your position.

Why is it that the discourse that seems to taking place fails to recognise similiar positions generally, and when it does, does so only to dismiss them?

And why is the public discourse not allowing a discussion of the ethics of a right to die to take place? Is it because the ethical discourse that consume the public sphere presently are focused on the commencement of life, in the form of discussions of abortion and stem cells?