The decision to remove feeding and hydration from Terri Schiavo has gotten quite a bit of attention in the news and online commentariat over the past few days (especially good comments here, here, and here). I am astounded that we as a society are willing to allow one man, with a pucuniary interest, make this kind of decision about a human life, despite the opposition of folks without a pucuniary interest.
As the Supreme Court said in the Cruzan case:
"And even where family members are present, '[t]here will, of course, be some unfortunate situations in which family members will not act to protect a patient.' In re Jobes, 108 N.J. 394, 419, 529 A.2d 434, 477 (1987). A State is entitled to guard against potential abuses in such situations."
It seems to me the state is more than entitled, it is required to so guard. If Terri were a hale and hearty 40 year old, totally self-sufficient, and her husband ran off on her, fathered children with another woman, then locked her away in a room with no food, the state would certainly act.
But because she is in a hospital, reliant on food and water from tubes to live, the state is prepared to allow her husband (who stands to gain both money and freedom to marry his current girlfriend) to make the determination that it is better for her to starve than to continue living. It is sad that society judges a certain life as not worth living.
It's odd to me that a post like this draws attacks from right and left, but to condemn the judge's reasoning in the Schiavo case is to be dismissed as partisan hackery (check out the references to Republican attempts and conservative Christian groups - did the writer poll the Christian groups? Then how do they know they are conservative? The protest is to encourage a court to err on the side of life in this case - hardly a position that should be unique to conservatives, right? Or maybe pro-life Christians are the very definition of conservative, regardless of their views on other issues).
Both the flogging and eventual killing mentioned in the "desert vampire" post linked above and the case of Terri Schiavo have the same thing in common. The dismissal of the humanity of a person. Volokh says it is OK to torture and kill a "monster." Judge Greer has decided it is OK to kill a vegetable.
Neither of these descriptions is accurate. A human being is not a monster, though he may have done terrible things. A human being is not a vegetable, though she may not be able to interact with others as you and I can.
It's a sad day when we have to stop to remember this basic fact.