Schiavo; Take Two

Greg Swann kindly takes time out to reply to my last:

…but my view is that Richard’s take falls apart because consent can only be expressed–or revoked–in real-time, not in advance.

If I understand and am restating it accurately, Greg argues that you cannot rightly hold someone to something they have consented to in advance—if—either they revoke such consent later—or—are in a state where they are unable to affirm or revoke consent later.

Assuming I’ve treated his argument fairly, then I’d have to say that I just don’t agree, in general. The whole point of this exercise is about being in a predicament where one cannot affirm or revoke consent (otherwise moot). What Greg seems to be arguing is that you should not have the moral authority over your own disposition to lay out in explicit terms, that: "If I ever end up incapacitated, cannot communicate, and the mediacal prognosis is for no material improvement, then kill me, no matter what, by any means you choose." I understand Greg’s argument to be that if I were to do that for myself, and were then to end up in such predicament, then it would be morally wrong for someone to carry out my explicit wishes of this sort that had been given in advance.

Greg’s position, to me, implies a restriction on my freedom that I find intolerable. So, regardless of what my firm and steadfast wishes are presently and for as long as I am able to express cogent thought (that I do not ever want to live as a drooling idiot who can’t feed himself, needs his messy diapers changed twice a day, and has no reasonable expectation of recovery); I should have no moral authority to insist upon my disposition now, and that no one else should have the moral authority to carry out such disposition later. If ever I am incapacitated, my sentence is to exist and breath as a drooling idiot without a shred of dignity, regardless of my past accomplishments or heights of splendor attained. My goodness, what an inspiration to me now! No wonder some people find it important to be humbled by the notion of God. This sort of potential future requires one helluva lot of humility, in my book.

…What matters is that, outside of an immediate emergency, it cannot be righteous for one person to kill another without the victim’s consciously expressed consent at the time the killing is to take place. Whatever that person said or wrote down in the past, it is not possible to know what his wishes are now unless they are expressed now.

But this is the whole reason for all of this. If wishes could be expressed, now, then all of this is moot. Moreover, this argument presumes that there are wishes in the present. I don’t believe there are; and I do believe that’s an important distinction.

Here is a very simple metaphor for understanding the entire issue:

"It wasn’t rape, your honor! She consented to sex before she passed out!"

But, this doesn’t work. If she consented to sex, in general, that would be one thing. The presumption is that she meant that she’d be an active participant (i.e., conscious), because that’s what people usually mean. However, what if she explicitly consented (let’s say in writing, and it was notarized), and in fact specified sex from her lover while in a state of unconsciousness…because, uh, I dunno…perhaps one or both get off on it…? Then, next day she catches him with her lesbian lover (because, they all are, after all, a bit kinky), and, well…, hell hath no fury, you know, and, …uh, it was rape!

The fact is, if you’re in for a penny, you’re in for a pound. I fear that Terry Shiavo will lay at the bottom of a vast mound of corpses. And that doesn’t even take into account the millions slaughtered in abortuaries. Mercy, it turns out, is a virtue of insatiable ferocity…

Well, I don’t share Greg’s fear of a slippery slope for practices such as concerns Terri Schiavo, any more than I share it with respect to abortion. I see no evidence whatsoever that any of this is in any way unified. Young women, by and large, get abortions because they are rational and understand their situation. Families turn off life support, and in some cases, kill by withholding nutrients, because they are rational (never moreso, in fact), serious, and they know what’s best for themselves and their loved ones.

In such cases, human beings approach Godhood, because, after all, human beings are God.

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