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The thing (okay, one of the things) that so bothers me about this case, Peg, is that the "plug" being pulled here is food and water. I don't know anyone in any condition who could survive without them, and by all accounts it is a terribly painful and nasty way to go.

I don't see this particular case as a living will issue at all.

Peg K

What matters in the Schiavo case, Doug, is the state of Terri's mind. I think most of us extrapolate from our own sense of being, and think, as you expressed "It would be horrific to die deprived of food and water."

But if Terri's brain is such that she is not capable of experiencing these feelings and thoughts - her death may be no more difficult than that of a plant that withers and dies when the winter comes.

Please understand. I'm not saying that this IS the case with Ms. Schiavo. I don't know.

But it is possible for me to conceive of circumstances under which a human could die from lack of food and water, and not suffer as we would understand suffering, under such circumstances.


I appreciate that you're trying to abstract more general things from this specific case Peg. Please don't think I'm assuming otherwise.

But it's the potential of exactly that kind of derivative moral that scares the hell out of me.

I wouldn't starve a goldfish to death. Seriously. People pondering doing this to a human being have crossed a threshold I simply can't recognize as humane. I'm willing to listen to a case being made. But I haven't seen one yet. And, especially in this case, it seems awfully damned convenient for the "guardian" to snuff her. Not. Right.

So I keep feeding my goldfish.

What would you think of me if I chose otherwise?

Peg K

Doug - I wouldn't starve my goldfish, either. (Though I'm afraid I must admit to killing one at a tender age through overfeeding; I didn't understand the concept back then that the goldfish was incapable of not eating itself to death.)

But - back to people.

You and I may well have different views about life and death at the beginning of a person's progress, too.

To me, what makes humans unlike animals (in that we kill animals to eat them and not humans) is our "personhood." That is, the qualities and characteristics that make us thinking and able to reason unlike other "lower" animals.

At some stage, however, even though an individual's body may still be breathing, in my opinion, they are no longer a "person" - that is, they no longer have the ability to perform the sorts of tasks that differentiate them from animals or creatures that we would kill, should it suit our purposes.

If Ms. Schiavo had expressed the view that she no longer wanted to be kept alive if her body and mind achieved a certain status, then I think it is appropriate to withhold food and water - particularly if she is incapable of feeling any adverse effects from this process.

If she had not made this expression - then it's a separate case.

This is all another way of saying, depending upon Terri's brain function, what was the integral parts of Terri may no longer be there. As such - it is all right to do things to her body that we would not do under other circumstances.

We, as a society, need to discuss these issues and determine what we believe to be moral, humane, and so forth.

And, of course, part of it depends upon an empirical study of her condition. I personally have not yet heard any reports that allow me to come to some conclusive decision as to what exactly that is.

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