Lest we ever forget...


Written on 7:11 PM by Jack B.

An outstanding article in Commentary Magazine by Paul McHugh, a Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University entitled Annihilating Terri Schiavo. I think he points out the real danger of what was done to Terri for the greater society that let her be starved and dehydrated to death. Soon "life unworthy of life" will become part of our regular vocabularly and those that get to decide who live and who dies will NOT be the ones who are sick, disabled or old but rather those that healthy and/or powerful. Thats something we all have to worry about.


As soon as Terri Schiavo’s case moved into the law courts of Florida, the concept of “life under altered circumstances” went by the boards—and so, necessarily, did any consideration of how to serve such life. Both had been trumped by the concept of “life unworthy of life,” and how to end it.

I use the term “life unworthy of life” advisedly. The phrase first appeared a long time ago—as the title of a book published in Germany in 1920, co-authored by a lawyer and a psychiatrist. Die Freigabe der Vernichtung lebensunwertes Leben translates as “Lifting Constraint from the Annihilation of Life Unworthy of Life.” Terri Schiavo’s husband and his clinical and legal advisers, believing that hers was now a life unworthy of life, sought, and achieved, its annihilation. Claiming to respect her undocumented wish not to live dependently, they were willing to have her suffer pain and, by specific force of law, to block her caregivers from offering her oral feedings of the kind provided to all terminal patients in a hospice—even to the point of prohibiting mouth-soothing ice chips. Everything else flowed from there.

The last paragraph sums it up perfectly in my opinion:
Contemporary bioethics has become a natural ally of the culture of death, but the culture of death itself is a perennial human temptation; for onlookers in particular, it offers a reassuring answer (“this is how X would have wanted it”) to otherwise excruciating dilemmas, and it can be rationalized every which way till Sunday. In Terri Schiavo’s case, it is what won out over the hospice’s culture of life, overwhelming by legal means, and by the force of advanced social opinion, the moral and medical command to choose life, to comfort the afflicted, and to teach others how to do the same. The more this culture continues to influence our thinking, the deeper are likely to become the divisions within our society and within our families, the more hardened our hatreds, and the more manifold our fears. More of us will die prematurely; some of us will even be persuaded that we want to.

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