Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"When is a life so worthless it can be judged to have no right to exist? Who determines that someone like Terri should die and I should live? And the most fundamental question of all: should anyone other than the person concerned have the right to decide life and death for someone who is not kept alive through artificial means?"
– Ed Smith is a retired educator and full-time writer, and he has been quadriplegic since 1998.

I hate it when people say "Terri Schiavo is not alive," or even worse "a vegetable." What do they mean by such hurtful, presumptuous statements? Who has the right to make such decrees? When did people become so offensive, especially towards people who are disabled and needing our care and/or support? It is well known that Schiavo is not actually "brain dead" (it is her cerebral cortex that does not function) and that recently more than 33 doctors and therapists (15 of whom are neurosurgeons) have publically contradicted a PVS diagnosis for her.

Without truly thinking it through, I think they mean to say that the life that Schiavo leads, especially in comparison to their own obvious standard of perfection, is meaningless, refusing even to acknowledge or recognize that she does indeed exist in many forms; to her family, friends and more importantly, to herself.

And why the headlong rush to kill her?

At some basic primeval level, Schiavo (and other’s like her) challenge their perfection, their notion of themselves and their individualty, and threatens what they worry is the ultimate degradation of that standard of humanity, or maybe better put, the standard of what is a perfect american – tall, strong, handsome, patriotic, and, well, overseas at war. It is a hateful, malignant infection brewing at the very core of american definition. It’s not new, or even uncommon, and I think I have read about this kind of struggle before, in a story called World War II. BUT, having said that, they are notions that most nations have rejected in favour of expressing compassion for their weakest citizens.

When the strong kill the weakest just because they can, definitions of who (and what)is weak begin to change. Power becomes justified as a tool of the greater good, and individuals (especially weak ones) are not always deemed beneficial to that greater good. And one day, every single one of these people are going to find themselves weaker, older, and needing care in some form or another. We'll all assume now they won't want to live that way.

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