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Human Lives are Never Worthless

Creative Minority Report reminds us that four years ago, we as a nation watched the euthanasia of Terri Schiavo. Terri Schiavo was not dying. She was profoundly disabled but medically stable. The withholding of nutrition and hydration was done with the intent of causing her death. That is, by definition, euthanasia.

Since September, I have been diligently studying bioethics from a Catholic perspective. I am working towards my certification in Catholic bioethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center. I am not exactly sure what I will be doing with this certification once it is completed, but I am certain the Holy Spirit has a plan.

One of the nuggets of truth that I have gleaned from my study is this:
Treatments can be deemed useless or excessively burdensome. Human lives are never useless or excessively burdensome.

In the case of Terri Schiavo, the medical treatment was the insertion of the feeding tube. This medical act was quite simple and without burden. Feeding Terri Schiavo through this tube is not a medical act, but rather ordinary care. She was utilizing the nutrition and hydration that was provided via the feeding tube. Her organ systems were stable.

What was judged to be useless and burdensome was her life as a profoundly disabled human person. Therefore, this life giving nutrition and hydration was withdrawn in order to cause her death.

I know the term “slippery slope” is used so frequently it sounds trite. But as we head towards a radical agenda of health care reform, remember my nugget of truth above. Expect to see rationing of health care based on arbitrary criteria such as age, mental capacity, and disabilities. We will see guidelines that state people over the age of 65 will not receive treatment X. The reasoning will not be because patients over the age of 65 will not benefit from treatment X. Instead, it will be because patients over the age of 65 are not worth treatment X. Expect to see similarly those with mental or physical disabilities similarly excluded from some beneficial medical therapies because their lives are not “valuable” enough to warrant such care.

You don’t think we can reach that point? We already have. Remember Terry Schiavo.

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