The Difference Between Prolife and Prochoice in Euthanasia

I received a non-spam comment on my last post on Terri Schiavo. I don’t agree with the comment, but I see that the person who wrote it is articulate and has thought about the situation a lot. While I disagree with the author pretty much completely, the comment was interesting.

Because lots of people don’t go read comments, I am going to quote it here. Leigh wrote:

I do not need convincing or reminding of what transpired almost a year ago. However, I truely believe that you are misguided and perhaps are one of those that protested outsided with PEACHES among other items to hydrate Terri. If Terri’s husband was truely an abuser, it would have shown up and will show up with his current wife. As most abusers will go on to repeat their behavior. Your claims are very unsubstantiated. However, her eating disorder is not. Why not donate your time to hospice? Better yet roll up your sleeves and work in healthcare for the better part of 15 years such as I have and work with people that are tube fed. Terri had her day with the U.S. Justices and her family lost and they also lost her case in the media. Shame on them for trying her and putting her in such a unflattering spotlight with the media. If the ProLife would pull their heads out of their ***** and see that this was nothing but a power struggle and about a family that could not see that she was dieing everyday slowing, perhaps she would have died more peaceful without protesters and government interference! I suppose this is the way you want to die, having every measure when there really is no hope for you….This PROCHOICE gal will always be there to stop people like you. Thank you to the Hemlock Society which has been around for decades, and the new Oregon Laws that have been passed.

I answered Leigh in the comments, which is where I assume she will go if she wonders about my response. But I wanted to answer “up front” as well, because the points she raises are important ones and the different perspective is somewhat important. While I don’t think we need to present both sides of an argument (such as the ACLU was arguing with Tennessee license plates), I do think it helps to know both sides of the argument.

This presentation of my arguments is a little more fleshed out than the comment answer I put up, but it is in substance the same.

The first point you make is that if Terri’s husband were truly an abuser, it would have shown up.

Well, Dr. Michael Baden reviewed the autopsy findings and said that it DID show up. So what? One doctor can be discredited. True, but this is the same doctor who reviewed the autopsy findings on the fourteen year old boy and said that it was not sickle cell anemia that killed him, but asphyxiation from trauma. It turns out that for that case there is video that confirms Dr. Baden’s findings. Read the ABC article here. There is no video for Terri Schindler-Schiavo. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t correct.

Yes, if Terri’s husband was truly an abuser, and I know that for a fact no more than you know for a fact that he was not, it will show up with his current wife. But if you are aware of domestic violence issues, you will know that she will make excuses for him, that the trauma will be “self-inflicted” when she goes to the doctor or the hospital, and that she will not leave him. (This is the norm in domestic violence situations.) We may not know that he is, in truth, an abuser unless he kills again. And then it will be a little late for his second wife.

You say that Terri had her day with the US justices, but she didn’t. No one talked to Terri to ask her what she wanted; at least the courts didn’t. Some said that she could talk, it just took a lot of time. But she wasn’t asked to talk by the court. Instead they took testimony from other people and decided based on what the other people said.

Exactly how did her family put Terri in an “unflattering spotlight?” You mean the media found out that she had an eating disorder? I don’t blame her for that. Do you? Lots of people have eating disorders. Yes, I don’t want to have one and it’s bad for the person who has that, but most Americans don’t view eating disorders as self-inflicted damage so much as a problem the person has to deal with. I didn’t hear anything else unflattering about Terri.

Also, I do not understand why you say the family tried Terri. They wanted to save her life. If that took the court examining her life, so be it. Because her life had to be examined I can see that she was a bit “on trial.” Some would say, though it feels a bit flippant here, that, as Socrates said, the “unexamined life is not worth living.” In such light, the trial actually made her life more worth living. (Not that I don’t think it was worth living before.)

Now I will admit that if a patient is dying slowly the family is unlikely to admit that.

And no one wants their family members to die slowly in pain.

But there is a difference between not wanting your family member to die slowly, which she may have been, and in pain, which she was not, and wanting to kill a family member “relatively” quickly in pain. Terri Schiavo took 12 days to die of starvation and dehydration. That was not a quick ending by any definition that I’ve ever heard.

Looked at another way, we are all dying slowly in pain. Certainly most people’s bodies slow and get more problems as they age. Does that mean you are advocating that all of us should be killed quickly?

I fully realize that is not what you said here specifically, but it seems to me to be a logical extension of your point. (If you disagree, you might want to go check out the Netherlands’ experience discussed here on my blog and on the BBC and here and many other places.)

In answer to your statement of whether I want to die this way, having every measure taken when there is no hope for me, no, I don’t. But the courts did not allow Terri to eat or drink ON HER OWN, which she could do. I do not mind if the plug is pulled on my body if it will not sustain itself, though my husband wants the opposite. But if I can eat and drink on my own, then, yes, I want to be allowed to eat and drink.

There is a difference between choosing to let someone die whose body is incapable of sustaining itself and dehydrating and starving someone to death whose body is perfectly capable of sustaining itself if given adequate nutrition. That you do not differentiate between those two things is one reason that “prochoice” has such a negative connotation and why I will be around to oppose people like you.

There is also a difference, which you do not seem to recognize with your talk of the Hemlock society and the Oregon laws, between suicide- which is the person whose life is impacted choosing to die- and killing- which is when someone else chooses for the person to die. Terri Schindler-Schiavo did not commit suicide. She was killed. There is a difference.

Despite the fact that you want to stop me, if you are ever put in a position where someone wants to kill you, I will not support that, either. I can’t stop you from killing yourself. But I don’t want anyone to have the right to kill you or anyone else simply because you are sick. That is the difference, as I see it, in our positions.

While there are other points I could make, I think that I addressed the points of prolife v. prochoice adequately and fairly.

A bit off the topic, but responding to Leigh’s comment on what I should do with my life, rather than blogging on Terri Schiavo…

Why not donate your time to hospice? Better yet roll up your sleeves and work in healthcare for the better part of 15 years such as I have and work with people that are tube fed.

Personally, if I were in a job where I thought the best thing anyone could do would be to kill my patients, I would quit. I am appalled that she seems to offer her experience in the medical profession as a justification for being a proponent of death for a person like her patients.