Not long after a Florida judge granted Michael Schiavo permission to have the feeding tube sustaining his wife, Terri, removed, I went round the room of a night class that I teach trying to find out who among the students had found a topic for their research paper. One young lady had chosen euthanasia. Was she for it or against it? Against it. The passive form, the active, or both? Umm, she hadn’t read about that yet.Later in the piece William Luse discusses the crucial difference between Terri Schaivo's case and that of Christopher Reeve. In the third and fourth paragraphs of that section he writes;
It’s remarkable how little they know about subjects on which their opinions are vehement. I gave her a couple of examples to illustrate the difference between active and passive, then asked, out of sheer curiosity, if she or any of the others had heard of the Terri Schiavo case. None had. This struck me as odd, I said, since it was happening right down the road in St. Pete. Oh yes! A couple of them had heard of it, but were not familiar with the details. So I laid those details out.
And so far, I would say, so good, with one crucial difference: Take away Reeve’s tube and he will at once stop breathing; take away Terri’s, and her digestive system will not at once shut down. It will continue working until all the food is gone. In fact, it will begin to digest her own tissues until starvation is complete. [if I did this to either of my dogs I would go to jail - ed.] Reeve’s lungs would have no such residual activity.This is a thoughtful discussion of issues surrounding the rights of patients, using the case of Christopher Reeve, who was still alive when Mr. Luse was questioning his students, as a source for comparison and argument. There is a lot to read and a lot to think about here, so get a cup of coffee, sit back, read, and think.
Many will think this distinction too finely wrought, leaving their doubts undisturbed. And yet I wonder if they would have any doubt were Terri Schiavo fully conscious.
Also, William Luse has a blog, Apologia.