Euthanasia is a life-terminating process with means to end pain and suffering. However, sometimes the way euthanasia is performed can be painful in itself. Terri Schiavo’s case was a very high-profile one for many reasons, one of them being because of this particular issue. She was 26 years old when she collapsed in her home in Florida in 1990 from what seemed to be lack of oxygen. She was in a coma for two and half months before entering a vegetative state. What came after would prolong into a 15-year dispute between Schiavo’s husband and her family in trying to figure out what would be the most ethical thing to do.
After Terri Schiavo entered the vegetative state, there were two different paths she could have continued onto. The first being death through euthanasia, while the second being living life and surviving with constant assistance and through artificial means. According to Diana Lynne in her article at //www.wnd.com/?pageId=29516, however, the path to euthanasia was absolutely unnecessary. Schiavo was not drooling, which meant she was able to control her saliva and therefore would not need feeding tubes. She was not in a PVS, or a persistent vegetative state, because she very well recognized her environment and was able to interact with it. Nurses reportedly could distinguish her words through her difficulty to speak as she would say ‘help me’ and ‘Mommy.’
Herein laid the biggest argument- would Terri want to live a life like this? Her husband, Michael Schiavo, reported that Terri had stated herself that she would never want to live her life as a vegetable and would rather have someone put a stop to her suffering. There was, however, no written proof, or any at all for that matter, of this claim. Terri’s parents insisted that she would not want to be euthanized due to her religion-they said she was a devout Roman Catholic and was very religious. There was no evidence to support this claim either.
Michael Schiavo’s intentions for Terri had been questioned since he lost all hope in her survival in 1992. His intentions were also suspicious because he had claimed that her reason for collapsing that night was due to her bulimic eating disorder-an issue that no one as aware she was dealing with. Another suspicious piece of evidence from the case was the fact that Terri had neck injuries when she was brought to the hospital that night she collapsed; her parents, the Schindlers, believe that Michael tried to strangle her that night. The first time he petitioned for Terri’s food tube to be removed in 1998, Michael Schiavo was already engaged to another woman whom he had had two children with. He was still married to Terri and was legally her guardian.
The court ruled in favor of Michael Schiavo and decided to remove Terri’s feeding tube in April of 2001. Three days later the feeding tube was put back in due to appeals made by the Schindlers which led to a hold in his case. There was videotaped evidence that Terri Schiavo was indeed responding to her family’s interactions and was not brain-dead or vegetative. Unfortunately, Michael Schiavo’s consistent efforts finally came through. On March 13th of 2005, the feeding tube was removed from Terri Schiavo. This would lead to her death on March 31st, 2005 from dehydration and starvation. For 18 days Terri was parched and starving, and this is how she was killed.
I believe that Terri Schiavo was killed in a harmful, thoughtless act and there a quite a few moral theories present in ethics that can support this. In Immanuel Kant’s ethical theory, the categorical imperative states that we should not use people as a means to an end. Killing a person to put a stop to their suffering through euthanasia would be using them to another end. Also, Kant believed that what seems to be an act out of kindness could lead to a bad thing; Kant was not interested in acting through compassion but rather what were the right thing and the best thing to do for the best possible outcome. Kant also believed that the value of a human being was “above all price.” He was extremely against suicide because of this belief of the human life and its worth. Especially in this case, in which Terri Schiavo was not brain-dead and could rationalize and think, I believe Kant would agree with allowing her to continue her live and not euthanize her.
John Stuart Mill would state that euthanasia was just because he believed that as long as no other being is hurt, a person can do anything he or she pleases. However, I would interpret this utilitarianistic view as one that could go against euthanasia. I believe that the death of any being can and will hurt another. The death of Terri Schiavo devastated her family and friends. Through her starvation and dehydration, her closest loved ones were also in pain because of what she had to go through.
Another moral theory that would go against euthanasia is the natural law. This ethical theory states that the end never justifies the means. This theory is evidently against euthanasia because it clearly insinuates that doing evil is not justified simply because the outcome will be good, even if the intentions mean well. This theory would suggest that killing an innocent person is never morally right to do because the main intention of this natural law is to ‘protect and preserve the innocent.’ Natural law also insists that God gave life and it is up to him whether or not it is a person’s time for that life to end or not and he will take that life away when he pleases; natural law very much believes in the sanctity of life.
The natural law theory is very much closely related to Christian ethics which would also be against euthanasia for many of the same reasons. This portion of ethics believes that humans do not have any right to take away life because it is up to God because he gave us life. It believes that euthanasia is murder and we are not to kill. Life is sacred and is meant to be lived until the person’s natural death and is therefore taken away naturally by God.
In terms of what is just, I do not believe Polemarchus would agree with the removal of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube or any other incident involving euthanasia for that matter because of his belief of ‘tit for tat.’ This belief of justice will overlook an act of evil if this kind of act was already done to that person committing it. This belief is also known as ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.’ People in vegetative states in situations where they may be euthanized should not be if they are innocent people.
Terri Schiavo’s case involved an involuntary euthanasia which means the person is not in a position to ask whether or not they want to die; the method of euthanasia in her case was passive, although the clear intention was for Terri to die. There are two other types of euthanasia: voluntary and nonvoluntary. In a voluntary case, the person asks to die and in a nonvoluntary case, the person does not want to die. The two types of methods in which euthanasia is performed are either passive or active. A passive method of euthanasia involves the cutting off of a treatment that the patient is on for a natural type of death while an active method of euthanasia is the opposite in which something is added in order to specifically end the patient’s life. This was the wrong thing to do especially because it was involuntary and it was therefore not certain that Terri Schiavo wished to die. It is reported that Terri Schiavo did not feel any pain during her 18 years in the hospital and because of this, any argument supporting euthanasia using Terri Schiavo as an example is not reasonable. In any case, however, I believe that there is no such thing as a life not worth living. It’s evident that every person would like to die with dignity and likely does not want to spend the last years of their life in a hospital but even though it is rare, it is possible to come out of a vegetative state. Also, according to all the philosophers and moral theories mentioned above, life is too sacred to not live, no matter what the circumstances