Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Pressing issues

The American Street offers the Guardian ad Litem's findings about Terry Schiavo's parents:
Testimony provided by members of the Schindler family included very personal statements about their desire and intention to ensure that Theresa remain alive. Throughout the course of the litigation, deposition, and trail testimony by members of the Schindler family voiced the disturbing belief that they would keep Theresa alive at any and all costs. Nearly gruesome examples were given, eliciting agreement by family members that in the event Theresa should contract diabetes and subsequent gangrene in each of her limbs, they would agree to amputate each limb, and would then, were she to be diagnosed with heart disease, perform open heart surgery. There was additional, difficult testimony that appeared to establish that despite the sad and undesirable condition of Theresa, the parents still derived joy from having her alive, even if Theresa might not be at all aware of her environment given the persistent vegetative state. Within the testimony, as part of the hypotheticals presented, Schindler family members stated that even if Theresa had told them of her intention to have artificial nutrition withdrawn, they would not do it. Throughout this painful and difficult trial, the family acknowledged that Theresa was in a diagnosed persistent vegetative state.
(My emphasis.)

They don't want to keep her on life support because of her life, they want to keep her as warm teddy bear. I wouldn't want them caring for me. I wouldn't want to be chopped up to keep blood flowing through some small piece of me.

Elsewhere at TAS, the point is made that the Republicans are making a broad point while progressives make narrow, almost semantic points. I agree, and think that more attention should be paid to the issue of individual liberties.

The division between authoritarians and liberals (in the most classical sense) is that authoritarians think that some selectorate should make complex moral choices on behalf of individuals. Classic liberalism, the ideology that founded American politics (and has a conservative and liberal wing), holds that individuals should make their choices unless those choices will harm other people. Under the American system, individual liberties rule until the exercise of those liberties interferes with other liberties.

As it happens, this is where the divide between the pro-choice and anti-abortion movements falls. Pro-choice means that you don't think the government should be making complex moral balancing acts, and should leave that to individuals until those actions affect another person. Roe v. Wade establishes a higher level of state interest as pregnancies progress; the fetus becomes a greater level of concern for the state as it develops. The beginning and end of life are not hard boundaries.

I've watched someone die, so I know that a natural death happens in stages. I'll blog that event later; this isn't the time or place. It wasn't a political event. But I will say that the life left him slowly and peacefully over several days. There was a sharp change at the last instant, but anyone could tell that he was diminished in the day before the end. I can't say what was diminished, but there was something that changed over a long time, followed by an instant of finality. I've never been pregnant, but I understand that there's a similar experience at the beginning of life.

Where and how you draw the edges of life is a personal, moral decision, and it isn't anyone else's business. A person with terminal illness who wants to end their suffering should have the option. A person who is unconscious should be able to leave instructions for family, and the government shouldn't interfere.

The authoritarians disagree. They think the government knows best about the most complicated moral issues of the day.

As DavidNYC puts it at DailyKos puts it:

If only these guys demanded such certainty in death penalty cases, I might almost believe them. In any event, this effort is almost certain to fail, as is any appeal to the Supreme Court. I pray that this circus soon draws to a close, so that the Schiavos might actually be afforded a little privacy and dignity at a very trying time.

A man was
convicted of murder today for starving, dehydrating, and overheating 19 illegal immigrants in his truck. Why do those 19 horrific deaths deserve less attention than the death Terry Schiavo had asked for?

Why do the daily starvation deaths in Sudan deserve less Congressional attention, let alone the torture and murder by American soldiers in Afghan and Iraqi prisons? A Lexis-Nexis search on the Congressional Record turns up 43 documents containing: "abu ghraib" w/10 torture. A broader search turns up 130 for: (abu ghraib) w/10 (abuse or torture). There are 91 hits for: Schiavo. Is Terry Schiavo almost as important as the murder of children in our prisons?

There are 182 hits for a search on: death penalty w/10 innocent. Is the possibility that Congress may be responsible for the execution of innocent people only twice as important as a woman choosing to die with dignity, rather than being hacked up to the smallest functioning part?

When we restrict the search to the current session of congress, the death penalty search returns 3 results, while there are 54 hits for Schiavo. This isn't 18 times more important than the state bearing responsibility for innocent deaths. Sudan was mentioned in 64 parts of the CR for this session. Surely genocide is more than equal to this one woman.

I guess that's why I'm not an authoritarian conservative.