Monday, March 21, 2005

The Value of One Life

Several readers have asked me why I haven't commented on the Terri Schiavo case, and have asked for my thoughts. I do not feel that I am able to comment in any detail, since I personally have experience with some of the intense emotions that are swirling on both sides of this issue.

I feel sorry for the parents of Terry Schiavo; I feel sorry for the husband; and most of all, I feel sorry for Terri. I know what I would do in this situation, but I cannot speak for the people who are actually living it.

ShrinkWrapped, a psychoanalyst's blog has a very articulate post up on Narcissism and Empathy which makes some excellent points about the case.

Certainly, the entire tragedy has become a three-ring circus; and I suspect that many things have become lost in the transition from tragedy to media comedy. I don't presume to know Terri Schiavo's wishes; and I don't presume to know Michael Schiavo's motivations. If there must be an error made in this case, then as a human being and a physician, I hope the error is made on the side of Life. Doctors don't always know what they are talking about; Love can be expressed in many ways; and Life, well, determining Life or Death is an exceedingly compelx matter that cannot be reduced to a simplistic battle of slogans and labels.

Oh, and one more thing. I found this comment by a reader of The Corner to be very perceptive:
No, I am not a right to lifer. I am a pro choice absolutist. Moreover, my daughter is so sick of hearing me tell her I do not want any extraordinary measures to prolong my life that she promised to throw me down the stairs if things go wrong.

And yet, I find the specter of the most powerful people in the only superpower drop everything to focus on the destiny of a single badly disabled woman edifying.

This is democracy and this is progress. If you do not believe me just compare it to legalized honor killings in Jordan, Pakistani tribal customs which consider gang rape of a woman a just verdict or the enslavement of girls to repay debts in Ghana. In fact, the valiant efforts to end those practices once and for all are the best indicators of democratic progress.

We have come a long way baby and for that we should be truly grateful.
The one thing we can know for sure whatever the outcome of this terrible situation, is that we are fortunate to live in a society deeply invested in the value of one individual human life. As long as the meaning of one life or one death can generate such intense emotional debate and passion, then our nation remains vibrant and committed to the basic principles on which it was founded.

UPDATE: 3/23- as the case progresses to its terminal phase, I think Charles Krauthammer's op-ed piece today is well worth reading.

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