The Corner

Life & Death & The Burden of Proof

There’s a piece worth reading on TechCentralStation on Terri Schiavo by a physician:

We’ve been down this road before, most famously with Karen Ann Quinlan and Nancy Cruzan. In both of those cases, families fought hard for the right to discontinue treatment; treatment that they felt was futile. Today, the Schiavos are fighting equally hard to continue treatment; treatment that so many others feel is futile.

So little and so much has changed in the past ten years. Our science is no closer to understanding consciousness, but our society is more confident that those living in altered forms of it are closer to death than to life. In the era of Quinlan and Cruzan, the burden of proof lay on those who would deny basic care to the severely cognitively impaired. Today, the burden of proof is on those who would continue it. If that isn’t a slide down the slippery slope, what is?

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