Is Schiavo Case Hindering “Culture of Life”?

Dan Drezner points to a number of stories indicating that one outgrowth of the Terri Schiavo case has been an increase in the number of people signing living wills indicating that they do not wish to be kept alive in circumstances like Schiavo’s.

[C]ould it be possible that making a federal case out of Terry Schiavo actually shrinks the culture of life? . . . [I]f this case has prompted a marked increase in the number of people specifying when they do not want heroic measures used to extend their biological life, then by their actions the Bush administration and both houses of Congress will have retarded rather than extended the culture of life.

It could well be. Still, this strikes me as a good result. It makes a lot of sense for people to specify their intentions ahead of time. My parents both signed living wills some time ago. Being single and relatively young, I haven’t. That’s about to change.

About the only thing I can think of that would be worse than continued existence as nothing more than an object of pity is to be in the position of Michael Schiavo or the Schindlers. Sparing one’s loved ones the additional agony of having to decide whether or when to terminate the last glimmer of “life” is a profoundly decent thing to do.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Paul says:

    Being single and relatively young, I haven’t. That’s about to change.

    Oh just blog it, they can subpoena it later. 😉

  2. Steve Talbert says:

    How come no one asks DeLay how many people will have their tubes and plugs pulled because of the $15 billion cut in Medicaid pushed by DeLay last week?? What about the actual life of our culture? Was the Palm Sunday bill an act of contrition?

    Although I think it’s sad and hope Terri well, it would be poetic justice to have her Medicaid funding run out before the case is settled. Hey, DeLay, we need an Easter Miracle, Whip!

  3. Just Me says:

    I don’t think this hurts the culture of life.

    I think it is a good idea to have your wishes in writing, so that when things happen, your actual wishes are going to be honored. I think what bothers me about this case is that the “proof” that Terri wanted this is pretty flimsy to me. I am just not convinced this is what she wanted.

    Also, I am not bothered so much by the people who argue that they believe this is what Terri would have wanted, and that’s why they think the tube should be removed.

    I am troubled by the people who make their case based on the “she’s a vegitable” “her brain is mush” argument, because they seem to be basing it on their perception of quality of life, and in a way are dehumanizing her. No matter what, she is still a human being, and she should be treated as such. This type of thinking is the begining of eugenics, and I don’t like it.