Terri Schiavo would have been 48 this December 3 … not a major mile-marker among we, the living, but a cause for reflection for those who loved her, and for all those who fought so valiantly to save her, in those terrible years and months and days before she was starved to death, by court order, in March, 2005.
A cause for reflection because, as so many observed and warned us at the time, her death – court mandated, despite the express wishes of her parents and siblings and the best efforts of the President and Congress of the United States – marked a crucial turning point in our nation’s cultural attitude toward life. Perhaps no judicial action since Roe v. Wade has done more to convince ordinary Americans that individual lives are expendable to those pushing for an increasingly callous medical establishment.
Two recent events give signs of the undertow that is quietly dragging our society’s longstanding reverence for life out into a rising sea of situation ethics. One is the coming of ObamaCare, and with it concerns over what Sarah Palin, in her memorable phrase, termed “the death panels.” As this administration’s medical insurance plan now becomes a matter of debate at the nation’s highest court, so too will that plan’s seeming tolerance – if not encouragement – of medical profit centers who make decisions on their patients’ treatment based on comparisons of the cost of that treatment to the perceived value of those patients to society as a whole.
Doctors protest that such decisions are comparable to the triage medics perform on battlefields. Someone has to gauge which patients can be saved, and which must be allowed to die if others are to be spared. But back home at City Memorial, the battle involves bucks, not bullets. The enormous costs of hospital care in a spiraling economy inevitably corrupt the decision process.
In a medical arena where humanity is increasingly supplanted by multi-million-dollar economic interests, life and death decisions become all too easy. Soon, it’s cheaper to pull a plug than to fill a prescription.
Of course, the pressures aren’t only financial. As the lists of patients awaiting transplants grow longer, pressure is mounting in many medical circles to speed along the process of dying, the better to harvest organs for those in need. Rob Stein of The Washington Post reported a few months ago on the increasingly aggressive efforts by the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) to rewrite the rules on when a patient is “dead” and his organs can be removed.
Alan Sears, a former federal prosecutor in the Reagan Administration, is president and CEO of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal alliance employing a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.