The Schiavo Debate

The Terri Schiavo case is nearing its end, it appears, although a federal court has agreed to hear another appeal. It seems unlikely that she will survive the week.

Tempers have run high as the nation has discussed the issue, and the authors of this blog have disagreed (politely, as always) about the meaning of the case. A measure of this passion is the fact that many individuals have repeatedly and disgracefully mischaracterized the positions and statements of those on the other side.

As in the overall national debate, however, it appears to me that the disagreement in the Reform Club has arisen largely over the facts in the case rather than the principles of the situation. One side truly believes that Terri would not have wanted to live this way, that she expressed this clearly to her husband and two other people, and that her husband is simply insisting that her wishes be granted. The other side does not believe that Terri expressed a clear directive that covers the present case. The arguments stem from disagreement over those simple facts.

As a result, I have argued that we need this debate because clarity in the law is essential, and clarity in one’s personal directives likewise necessary.

However, it also appears to me that our varying willingness to believe Michael Schiavo’s claims is perhaps traceable to differences over certain principles we apply to life in general. The issue has brought out furious debates over what life is for, and how we value human lives. Put simply, some are absolutists in the matter, and some are not. Most are unsure, and rely on intuitive responses.

Personally, I am among the latter, the uncertain ones. That is why I have argued for clarity in the law and in individuals’ personal directives regarding these matters.

In the present case, I do not see such clarity. I think both sides have a reasonable case to make. Upon my judgment of the facts, I would greatly prefer to see Terri’s care handed over to her parents, for I strongly doubt that the present case covers what she may have meant when speaking to her husband about some TV movies many years ago.

Yes, the Florida and federal courts have spoken on the matter, but this is the outcome I personally would have wished to see.

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