Tuesday, March 29, 2005
The case of Terri Schiavo has been framed by the media as the battle between the right to die and pro-life groups, with the latter often referred to as right-wing Christians. Little attention has been paid to the more than twenty major disability rights organizations firmly supporting Schiavos right to nutrition and hydration.Wesley Smith recently debated bioethecist Bill Allen on Court TV and some of the conversation centered on the concept of "personhood," or, frankly, that some humans are not, based upon their cognitive, awareness or interactive abilities, people. It's important to note that the person arguing that Terri Schiavo is not a person since "I think having awareness is an essential criterion for personhood" and that "there should be consent to harvest her organs, just as we allow people to say what they want done with their assets" is the Director of the Program in Bioethics, Law, and Medical Professionalism at the University of Florida College of Medicine.
The reason for this public support of removal from ordinary sustenance, I believe, is not that most people understand or care about Terri Schiavo. Like many others with disabilities, I believe that the American public, to one degree or another, holds that disabled people are better off dead. To put it in a simpler way, many Americans are bigots.
In the Schiavo case and others like it, non-disabled decision makers assert that the disabled person should die because he or sheordinarily a person who had little or no experience with disability before acquiring one"would not want to live like this."
I share Wesley Smith's position that this is not a matter of Religion vs. Science but a profound question of human rights, what degree of control a guardian is allowed to assert over a disabled person and upon what basis the control of life and death may be exercised. I have often asked on other blogs, what is the difference between the Terri Schiavo case and the guardian of a disabled person choosing to not feed them. If you ask Bill Allen, perhaps there is no difference provided the disabled person isn't sufficiently aware to be considered a person.