Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Ideas for Legal Reform in Schiavo-type Cases


As promised, here is an article in the current edition of the Weekly Standard magazine containing some of my initial thoughts on legal reforms that could help protect the lives of devalued people like Terri Schiavo.

The article speaks for itself, but allow me to share just a few additional thoughts: Reporters have been asking me if the goal of new legislation would be to force patients to stay alive as long as possible and to do away with written advance directives that allow people to decide in advance what kind of care they want and don't want if they become incapacitated.

The reporters are following this line of inquiry after being told by some who seek to discredit the defenders of Terri's life that we want to dismantle the laws of informed consent and refusal. Of course, these charges are ridiculous. Indeed, at a time when many bioethicists promote "futile care theory" that would give doctors the right to refuse wanted life-sustaining treatment to patients one bioethicist once notoriously called "biologically tenacious", written advance directives are more important than ever TO ENSURE THAT REQUESTED CARE IS ACTUALLY RECEIVED.

Now, I readily admit that I don't believe that it is moral to remove feeding tubes from people based on quality of life assessments. But I am not the dictator and the society as a whole clearly has a different view. Nevertheless, if someone wants to die by dehydration in cases of severe brain injury, they owe it to their families and society to put that directive in writing. Absent that, every reasonable benefit of every doubt should go to providing food and water. Better to err on the side of life than a slow death by dehydration.


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