Recently, as Terri Schiavo was slowly starved to death, there was a lot of
discussion about whether a life such as hers was worth living. If the worst
opinion of her consciousness was true–that she was incapable of thought, and
not truly responsive–was she still a person?
This reminded me of the discussion, also current, about the status of
captured accused terrorists. The Bush administration insists that they are not
recognized combatants of any nation, are not regular soldiers, and thus have no
protection and no rights under international law. It is further argued that as
they are not American citizens they have no legal rights.
In both of these cases it is assumed that one must meet certain criteria to
be considered worthy of possessing human rights; in the Schiavo case, even the
right to life.
But this is arbitrary; to some–the young and healthy–anything short of a
vibrant physical existence is deemed not worth living. If rights inhere in
anything but humanity the door is opened to all sorts of horrors. I
fear we will see this played out to its logical, and terrible, conclusion.
I have long thought that I would end my days waiting in line at the Happy
Trails Peaceful Passage Center, explaining to my hapless fellow baby boomers,
awaiting termination, just how this thing had come to pass, and where the responsibility lies.