Human Exceptionalism

“Choice” as a One Way Street

This column goes where the entire “Futile Care Theory” (aka medical futility) movement wants to take us. If you don’t want to receive life-sustaining treatment, you should have the absolute right to refuse. If you do want it, you may or may not get your way depending on whether the powers that be determine that, 1: your life is worth living, and 2: it is worth spending money on.

Columnist Froma Harrop says that people like Terri Schiavo should not be kept alive, even if that is what is wanted by family and/or advance medical directive, unless the patient or family pays the entire tab. In other words, no public funding to sustain the lives of certain people.

She also states that it would be acceptable to keep elderly people comfortable on the public tab when they are unable to care for themselves. But why? If we can determine that some of us have no business being alive, why not others? Indeed, it might cost more money to care for a debilitated elderly or a quadriplegic disabled person for years and some would denigrate these people as having lives of little value or productivity. Indeed, why waste time removing wanted care? Why not just administer the lethal jab and get it over with quickly? That now happens regularly in the Netherlands, which has trod this road before us.

These attitudes are dangerous precisely because they excuse medical discrimination by a polite name. This is not to say, of course, that we shouldn’t worry about resources. We should. But there are many other ways to conserve resources and prioritize expenditures without discarding people.

Here’s the nub of the issue: Once we presume the right to judge someone else’s moral value and right to continued existence, whether one lives or dies depends on who has the power to decide. And that leads to tyranny against the weak.