May 10, 2021

Who Has the Right?

In this highly charged national debate over the case of one woman and the disagreement in her family, it is necessary (I think) to step back and look at this as a question of rights.  We can argue all day about what we think in terms of emotions.  Some will say that they would never want to be put in this state.  Some would argue about what Terri can and cannot do.  My question is a little more basic:

Who has the right to say when a person should no longer be kept alive, and is that right immutable?

Certainly, each individual can state for themselves whether they want extra measures performed to keep them alive– they can file Do Not Resuscitate orders, they can state in living wills who their healthcare
proxy is, and (in the extremest sense) they can take their own life.

After that, should a person not be able to express their wishes, it falls on the next of kin.  In Terri’s case, that’s her husband.  This supports the Biblical command that the two became one, and the law recognizes that (though don’t ask them!).  If Terri is/was not coherent at all, it would seem that he should be able to make an argument that she would not have wanted extra measures.  But does he have the right to determine that for a woman that may just have been severely disabled by this?

We run into dangerous territory here.  What’s the test to determine when someone else’s life is no longer worth living?  How about when they get Alzheimers?  Paralized?  Confined to a wheel chair?  Are we willing to give some other person the right to determine that?

To make matters worse, how about a person that no longer has a vested interest– in fact, it would be better to that person if you were dead?  In Michael’s case, he has a whole other family and stands to benefit financially.  Should he have the right to decide?

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