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As she lay dying

Posted By Ilana Mercer On 03/26/2005 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

I’ve yet to hear one liberal enunciate in the Terri Schiavo case the principle that moral law supersedes man’s law. But whether they defer to reason or to revelation, I’ve heard scores of conservatives articulate the a priori truth in this case – which is:

Notwithstanding my own belief in the right to die, the only authority that has jurisdiction over Terri Schiavo is Terri Schiavo. In the absence of a living will or a clear directive from her, a court’s decision – no matter which court – cannot be equated with her will. Ditto her husband’s hearsay. We simply don’t know – and can’t divine – Terri’s wishes, although it’s reasonable to assume that if she wanted to die, she didn’t wish for the death she’s been dealt.

As a society, we have no right to decide Terri’s fate; ours is an obligation to do her no harm – to uphold her right to life in the absence of a directive from her, and in the overwhelming presence of evidence she is being harmed. (How do cognitively competent people know Terri is being harmed? Hmm … let me see: Does being starved qualify – in the absence of clear, persuasive evidence one has requested such treatment?)

Federalism, discovered belatedly by liberals, is not the issue here; the right to life is. The level of decision-making is immaterial; what matters is the decision. Had a federal court found for her life, the decision ought to have been hailed as the right one – one consonant with natural justice. No one has the right to kill an innocent human being. By logical extension, it matters not who saves her – which state or federal official – just so long as someone does.

For natural rights antedate the state apparatus. Although federalism is an excellent principle, it is not a religion. Predicating Terri’s right to life, as it has been, on the outcomes of a judicial review is to concede that the courts have a right to deny her life. As I’ve written, to the extent the law upholds natural rights, it’s good; to the extent it violates the right to life, liberty and property – it’s bad. In this particular case, it doesn’t matter who upholds the right to life, just so long as someone does.

Terri’s condition is yet another irrelevance: The party that wants to err in favor of killing says she is in a “persistent vegetative state.” The cautious camp claims she is “minimally conscious.” Like federalism, Terri’s medical condition is also immaterial in this particular case, the premise of which is that her right to life depends on state-of-the-art medical expertise.

Aside from having a hard time disguising their collective God Complex, most doctors are reductionists. They think squiggles on a machine are an accurate map of the whole person. That a person is more than the sum of his or her parts is not a proposition they often entertain. For example, it took doctors a long time to “discover” what mothers have known all along: Newborns do a great deal with their heavy, wobbly heads. In response to stimuli, my own 3-week-old girl used to crack a broad smile. Her pediatrician (this was admittedly a while ago) cautioned she was windy, not amused. Naturally, when the jovial child began chuckling at three months (to this day she finds her mother a scream), shoulders shaking and all, I didn’t tell him. Who knows what St. Vitus’ dance he’d have diagnosed?

The point being, the (disputed) state of Terri’s cerebral cortex does not give the state the right to cause her death.

If the case of poor Terri Schiavo has taught me anything it is how utterly loathsome liberals are. In their ever-so “progressive” zeal for euthanasia, they’ve discovered principles for which they’ve hitherto had nothing but contempt. In the liberal vernacular, states’ rights are synonyms for discrimination, that is, until Ms. Schiavo. Now Democrats shriek louder than Dixiecrats ever did that the intervention by a federal court in a so-called state (or personal) matter undermines this “cherished” principle. (So they know about the 10th Amendment?)

The only kind of marriage liberals had ever glorified is the gay kind. But thanks to Michael Schiavo, the sanctity of marriage is fast becoming a liberal sacrament, with the proviso it has to involve “mercy killing.” It took Michael Schiavo’s devoted efforts to starve and dehydrate his wife to restore liberal faith in the institution. As we know, liberals, inexplicably, have insisted over and over again that Terri Schiavo’s husband is his helpless wife’s sole and indisputable guardian. Furthermore, to liberals, males have always been the guilty party in just about any heterosexual interaction. Michael’s monstrous single-mindedness has changed all that.

“We are a nation of laws” is the latest – not last – in liberal two-facedness. The law, after “due process,” has sentenced Ms. Schiavo to death, therefore die she must. Illegal aliens are trampling the rule of law and states’ rights as we speak. Show me a Democrat who’ll support the right of state residents to refuse to teach or medically treat these lawbreakers.

Consider the liberals’ “let nature take its course” chant. They generally believe “nature,” the animal kingdom in particular, is the appropriate metaphor for civilization. It would apparently do humans a whole lot of good to imbibe even more animal “ethics” than we already practice.

What distinguishes civilized beings from animals, primitive societies and liberals is that they don’t see nature as an exemplar of all that is fine and good. To the contrary: The civilized don’t abandon the burdensome or the enfeebled to nature. When some of us do, others will always strive to rescue them.

The tragedy of Terri is a testament to how irreconcilable certain liberal leanings are with civilization itself.


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