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September 15, 2006

Does Consciousness Matter?

Topics: Commentary

We were told ad nauseam that Terri Schiavo lacked consciousness, that she died years earlier and what was left was only a shell of a woman once alive. Medical experts asserted she was devoid of consciousness. Now, when researchers report that an individual in a similar condition was observed to be conscious using new technology, "experts" assert the results were not relevant to Terri's. Ellen Goodman, a columnist whose opinion appears in the Seattle times, takes their argument a step further by suggesting that Terri had no "inner life" and that the application of science and technology to such cases cannot reveal whether those who are incapacitated have a sufficient quality of life to merit care. That is, even if consciousness were objectively shown to be present, starvation/dehydration would be the appropriate path for those who lack a rich inner life.

And, she re-asserts the fundamental standard for making life and death decisions affecting others: "Would you want to live like this?" Lacking in this argument is an absolute standard for right and wrong that is independent (and transcendent) from the individual considering the dilemma. Man is declared god and has the power to take life, whether it is his own life or that of another.

It is quite easy to see the path from this presupposition, which enables passive euthanasia, to assisted suicide and active euthanasia.

Posted by tim at September 15, 2006 12:41 PM

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