Giving life the benefit of the doubt

The political branches have made their views known, and courts have respected them as they saw fit (which is not at all).

I have made a few decisions in my life that have greatly affected the way I look at the world. One of them was when I decided to become a Christian. The other was when I decided to err on the side of life when making ethical decisions. Both have at times been difficult, and at times both have pitted me against friends who are otherwise of like mind when it comes to subjects political.

Occasionally, it has even pitted me against a document I love, the Constitution. When life is in jeopardy, the burden of proof is on the jeopardizer. Thus, when lives are at stake, I err on what I believe to be the rational side. It is in this light that I have looked and struggled with the Terri Schiavo case. 

I understand that if a person is brain dead, there is no point to keep the body alive. And there are very reasonable ways to measure whether a person has been “desouled,” as Oliver Sacks would put it. An electroencephalogram is a place to start. There are other methods, and all can be used to discern whether the prefrontal cortex of the person examined is functioning.

I’d like proof Schiavo’s higher functions were gone before we starved her to death. I keep saying “we” for a reason. I believe our government is killing Schiavo, we are partaking in her death.

We are killing her without proof. While the phrase “persistent vegetative state” has been bandied about, we must remember that Schiavo could smile, move her eyebrows and make sounds. Schiavo interacted with her environment. This shows that while she couldn’t move, there was still something working in her brain that was conscious. 

We should pause for reflection. We need to imagine ourselves in a similar situation, as painful as it is. Imagine that some of your brain is dead, you can’t move. You are a consciousness inside your limp body. It is almost a nightmare of being a ghost in the machine and you can’t affect the machine. You have a hard time even understanding your state.

The situation is quite difficult to describe, but meditate a moment on how it might be.

You’re not dead, but you’re mentally disabled. It certainly isn’t a spot you would want to be in, but would you want someone to kill you? Maybe you would, maybe you wouldn’t. But you could only know if you were in that state, and by then, it is too late.

And imagine the horror it must be to be in a state in which you know you are dying and there is nothing you can do about it.

These types of issues have compelled me to err on the side of life, especially if there isn’t a living will on which to base a decision. These issues compelled the legislative and executive branches of government to challenge the judiciary’s decisions on the matter.

Some are attacking Republicans because of their actions in the Schiavo case. I’ve heard “separation of powers” become a popular slogan for those who have turned the Schiavo case into a partisan issue. Another phrase that needs attention is “checks and balances.” At this point, the political branches have made their opinion known, and courts have respected it as they saw fit (which is not at all). As far as I see it, it was completely proper. 

The executors and the legislators in Florida and the nation as a whole begged the courts to err on the side of life. Ask yourself who was more rational. And don’t think what happened to Schiavo couldn’t happen to you.

Marty Andrade welcomes comments at [email protected]