Nothing in this blog can be believed. If you think that anything in this blog is true or factual, you'll need to verify it from another source. Do you understand? No? Then read it again, and repeat this process, until you understand that you cannot sue me for anything you read here. Also, having been sucked into taking part in the mass-murder of more than 3 million Vietnamese people on behalf of U.S. Big Business "interests", I'm as mad as a cut snake (and broke) so it might be a bit silly to try to sue me anyway...

Friday, March 25, 2005

on the care and feeding of plants...

Over at Troppo, I've been following with interest The Great (Terri Schiavo) Debate. I was even driven to uttering a comment. It is reproduced here for those who want to debate this comment with me:
(1) So she's in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). Let's assume this means she's ceased being a human being and that she is now a gendered plant. Why deliberately stop watering and feeding a plant which is loved and wanted by someone? Because it's not human? Who says this is ethical?

(2) So she's a plant. Is the plant suffering? If not, see (1).

(3) Is there irrefutable evidence that before becoming a plant she has indicated she would want to be allowed to die if in a PVS? If not, there is doubt. If there is doubt, see (1).

Where are there any problems?

Why must she be denied the basic rights of a plant (i.e. access to food and water)?

The only question I can see is this: Who should bear the cost of the accommodation, care and feeding of this plant?

The answer is clear: Those who want her to be kept alive.

Everything else is agenda-driven rhetoric. Perhaps even my comments are nothing more than agenda-driven rhetoric. Perhaps all there is is agenda-driven rhetoric... Who knows...

So many questions, so few bullets... ;-)
Ok, dudes and dudettes, let's have at it! :-)

UPDATE (March 31): It's over. Terry Schiavo has died. If indeed there is a soul, and if souls need to rest in peace, then I wish for the soul we used to know as Terri Schiavo to rest in peace. And if there is a god, then to he/she/it I say a heart felt "f#ck you". There... I think I've got closure now...

22 Comments:

Blogger Douglas said...

My irrelevant comment is that Terri Schiavo is that she is (un)lucky to be white in the USA. Otherwise she would be one of those (1 billion) who have no access to safe drinking water, or one those (840 million) who are hungry or malnourished.

So it would be better to be a plant in the first world than a human being in the third world.

March 25, 2005 8:23 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

So, douglas, your vote is the thumbs-down for Terri?

Has she ceased being a being and become a "thing"?

Do "things" need to be killed despite the wishes of the "thing's" parents?

I'd like to hear a convincing argument for any of this.

March 25, 2005 10:21 PM  
Blogger Douglas said...

If Terri were conscious and competent, I would have no problem with her making a decision to refuse to extraordinary efforts to keep her alive (i.e. starve to death). Intervention in this case by her parents should be resisted because Terri is responsible for her own life.

I understand that her husband contends that Terri told him not to make extraordinary efforts to keep her alive. If this is true, then Terri's wishes should be respected and she be allowed to die.

I think the question is what would Terri want to happen now? At present, Terri cannot make the decision for herself. Others are making that decision for her.

This issue goes into what it means to be an adult: how much responsibility do I take on as an adult? I should be able to choose how much medical care I receive. (Whether I can afford it is another matter).

In short, if Terri clearly said to her husband that no extraordinary means should be used to prolong her life, then she should be allowed to die. Otherwise, she should be kept alive.

Meanwhile a 5 month-old baby is taken off life support and allowed to die despite his mother's objections. No bills rushed through congress. In this case, the "thing" was "...killed despite the wishes of the 'thing's' parents". Tough luck being born severely disabled, kid!

March 25, 2005 11:14 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

douglas, if you're still ther, I haven't forgotten about this, it's just that I'm in the process of re-thinking things before I figure out what my position is. At the moment it's confused by the many angles to this thing.

March 27, 2005 1:19 AM  
Anonymous Theo said...

Difficult subject alright.

I would regard it as an ownership issue.

If you follow that line of thinking then the first owner, the girl in question, has first and final say.

Next the second owner would have to be the partner, it is generally accepted responsibility passes from the parents to the partner at marriage.

If he wants to execute her wishes to die this has to be confirmed in some fashion (in the absensence of clear instructions).

That's where it stands, he has established that he is executing the wishes of the first owner to the satisfaction of the court.

End of first arguement.

Next arguement is has society the right to overide the wishes of the owner.

That's a matter of life views, I personally believe nothing should override (other then temporary) the wishes of the owner, obviously a slice of bible bashers does not agree.

As a matter of course we already keep potplants alive at taxpayers expense, i.e. ownership is transferred to the state (I have seen some of these sad cases in Australia).

The question is if some people want to go against the wishes of the origional owner should we still get the state to foot the bill?

Other then that, my views on starving her to dead can easily be guessed, if it was my wife I would have helped her along years ago, fucking religious bastards.

March 27, 2005 5:57 AM  
Blogger Douglas said...

Theo, what a perfectly Capitalist argument: human life can be owned. This is the logical outcome of the ownership society.

Then again, your argument would fit with Gerry's original post. We could put Terri's life onto the market: the highest bidder gets to dispose of her life as they see fit. Those who would want to keep her alive should pay for it; otherwise out comes the tube.

This is probably not what you meant but the language we use is coloured by the kind of society we live in. We live in a Capitalist society and we tend to use Capitalist metaphors.

As for the second argument, I would take this to mean that society, through the State, has the right to kill anyone it deems necessary.

So for people in the tender care of the State, do they have the right to decide what happens to them? Would we respect their wishes anyway if we think it costs too much to keep them alive?

I think their case is different because they did not get a chance to make a competent decision about their lives.

March 27, 2005 2:23 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

I've now finished my period of deep thought and here's the latest comment I've left on Troppo Armadillo, which also nicely deals with the debate here:

It needs to be understood I'm not putting up a legal argument but a moral one.

I still don't think that I've been understood by anyone here yet. Or perhaps my ideas are just so unacceptabbly repulsive they must by their very nature be ignored. It's possible. But if so, I'd like to have my moral errors pointed out to me.

I accept she's in a PVS, my original "construct" indicated this very clearly if somewhat starkly..

I also believe she is not suffering or in any pain. This point is crucial, because from what I can make out, all arguments for killing her (and deliberately discontinuing the delivery of food/water is an act of killing - this crap about "allowing to die" is IMHO just that, crap) come down to just two justifications:

(1) She is suffering/in pain.

(2) In these circumnstances, she would want to die.

Well, (1) clearly does not apply.

So, down to (2): I still hold that anything less than 100% proof of her prior intention is unacceptable when one is claiming to come from the argument that it was her prior intention.

This then leaves us the default argument that most are comfortable with which is this: Under these circumstances, if she had made a living will, she would have expressed an intention to be euthanased.

Well, I find it gross that this view should be imposed upon her under the guise of "reasonable argument".

Another variant of this argument which has received popular support in this debate is that "most people would choose to die, therefore in the absence of knowledge about her wishes, we will kill her."

I think the sphistry inherent in this "argument" is quite obvious.

So this leaves us with the issue of guardianship. And this is where I have the biggest problem. I don't think the husband's guardianship powers (or the state's, or the court's) should extend to the power to order the death of someone whilst there are close relatives (e.g. parents) vehemently opposed to it.

All I'm saying is that where there are the moral dilemmas which exist in this case, one should not default to the death option and that (in this case) the parent's wishes should be allowed to prevail.

Where's the harm?

Why this insistence on death rather than life?

Descartes? Applying his maxim is IMHO very much in the realm of metaphysics (which you say we will not enter into). But in any case, if his maxim is to be applied to Terri's case then it could only be along the lines of "she doesn't think, therefore she does not (or must not be allowed to continue to) exist." I find such a negation of Terri's existence offensive and dangerous.

Whilst we good little secularists must not enter the realms of metaphysics or religion, we must, I think, nevertheless RESPECT and ACCOMMODATE the religious or spiritual beliefs/values of the family when it comes to death, dying or the termination of life, and whilst I don't know if any such beliefs/values apply in this case, much of the argument put forth here clearly sought to ignore or over-rule such "inferior" constructs. This, in my book, is akin to secular fundamentalism, and there is a lot of that about these days, albeit well disguised with meretricious rhetoric and well polished sophistry.

Let's remember, girls and boys, we cannot PROVE that there is no God, spiritual realm, soul, etc, etc, and we must never loses sight of this important fact.

March 27, 2005 4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First let me make it perfectly clear: I am AGAINST removing Terri's feeding tube!!!

There seems to be another factor in all this that everyone is overlooking and while it may be considered very cynical, we live in a very cynical world (at least here in the US). Those of you who are fortunate to live in countries with universal health care probably can't fully appreciate what follows and please don't think I'm condoning it. I don't know who's paying Terri's medical bills, but I would suspect that her husband is financially responsible - it won't be her parents, of that I'm fairly certain. Seeing as it's not uncommon for an Amerikaner, free-market, kapitalist hospital to charge US$2,000 for just 1 hour's use of a room (which you could get at any Motel 6 for US$50-60 per day) and Terri's been in a PVS for what (13 years?) even Bill Gates would probably be bankrupt by now (except in his case the MicroSoft shareholders would probably have to pickup the tab). So there could be a financial motive behind this as well. And if so, I'm not sure I can totally blame her husband. After all he probably wants to just get on with his life and how could you possibly do so if you owe millions to a greedy, overpaid medical system? By the way, our Politburo (House of Reprehensibles) and Teflon Dons (Senate) are about to pass a bill which will make it almost impossible for a working class stiff to file bankruptancy while protecting the ruling class from parting with their stolen (from employees and shareholders) loot.

DS

March 27, 2005 11:38 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Ah, DS, the money...

Firstly, a lot of this has been worked-over in great detail over at Tropp Armadillp and so rather than revist a lot of that stuff, it might be best for readers to go there first.

The money... It's been saidt hat her husband might well get to inherit the current balance in her trust account which is reported to be $700,000 if she were to die now, whereas if she stays alive she would eventually drain that account dry and then, as you've pointed out, if there were no further funds, the hospital would probably seek to pull the plug anyway.

I'm still grappling with the issue of whether or not there's a good enough reason for keeping her hooked up to life support. That's really what it comes down to.

Another one is the question of whther or not she is considered dead already. But I have a problem with that one because it's hard to accept that she's "clinically dead" or "brain dead" if her heart, lungs, liver, kidneys are still operating normally. I would have thought that "brain dead" meant that these functions would cease. I'm not a medical expert.

I'm not an expert at anything except methods of killing people whose only "crime" was to choose to want to live under a non-capitalist economic system. Perhaps it's because of this that I baulk at the ease with which people are happy to decide that another's life should be terminated.

I dunno.

March 28, 2005 9:49 AM  
Anonymous Theo said...

I don't think we have much choise other then to take a "capitalistic" view.

Hospitals are an expensive and a scarce resource even in Australia, while she is being kept as a potplant other people are denied a hospital bed and die as a consequence, there aren't enough beds to go around.

Hence we must operate a triage system, put resources where they do most good, hospitals and doctors do make such decissions on a daily basis.

When the state is called upon to foot the bill it puts the rights and responcibilities directly into the hands of the state regardles if the wishes of the patient and family are known or not.

If it wasn't for the clear danger of having the state doing a wholesale riddance of expensive patients Hitler style I would say give them all a stiff dose of heroin and have them die happy.

To stop such ready solutions we can only but make the process difficult and lenghty by involving family, doctors and courts.

The missing bit is an euthanasia law to give humans similar right to our dogs.

March 28, 2005 9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She's not brain dead, but she is severely brain damaged. The only thing required to keep her alive is a feeding tube.

While hospital beds are expensive US$8-10,000 per day, there's no shortage here in the US. After all, only the very wealthy or those few lucky enough to have adequate health insurance can afford to stay in one. Something like 45M Americans have no health insurance at all.

I've been in a lot of towns where the only new buildings are hospitals, with new ones going up all the time. Hospitals are one of the few businesses that are actually making profits. And that's because they can charge whatever they please ($10 for an aspirin, $2,000 per hour for a room with only a bed and TV).

DS

March 28, 2005 12:40 PM  
Blogger Brownie said...

As usual, the issue is equity not ethics. Sunny von Bulow has been in her coma for 25 years. cost so far is about US$10 million, nobody is yanking her tubes (till the huge family fortunes runs out).
If they wanted her dead it should have been achieved in a HUMANE manner.

March 29, 2005 12:56 AM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Well, yes, inequity too.

Anyway, I no longer know where I stand on this issue. Perhaps it was none of my business.

March 30, 2005 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

I screwed my life partner earlier, so now, onto higher cerebral functioning (i hope)....
Terry, Terry, Terry.........why are we so obsessed with her existence? Why can she not just be? I believe some people exist for the benefit of others and not solely for themselves. And here are my problems with removing her feeding tube and changing her state of existence
1. Why now? Why wasn't this done years ago?
2. Whose decision? See #1.
3. Who wants her? If not her husband, let her be divorced from him (on grounds of adultery maybe?)
I would consider removing her feeding tube (denying her basic subsistence to the point of death)to mean that he does not want her.
Where is the feminist point of view regarding husband/wife/property take on all this??????
Thanks.

March 30, 2005 4:39 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Elizabeth, my views are not too different from yours.

I guess the judges' hands were tied by the law. I think the law is an ass, especially in this case.

But all this is now pretty moot as I think she's gone past the point of no return in her slide towards death.

Hopefully the debate so far and the continuing debate will bring about some changes for the better.

Thanks for dropping by.

March 30, 2005 6:08 PM  
Blogger R H said...

Science keeps people alive, in a sort of laboratory experiment. And it fiddles about too, with ladies wombs, seeing what it can create in the way of human beings. We're just rabbits and mice.
Science will destroy the world soon enough.

All the same, your plant analogy is very clever. I've had to think again. Because for her family who love her it makes good sense. I was going to say that they could have her stuffed and taken home. But nothing can substitute for a beating heart. Taxidermy and science are unemotional in that way of things. Very practical.

March 30, 2005 8:48 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

RH, I no longer know what's ethical and what's not in this case. I think I've had one thought too many. It happens...

March 30, 2005 9:06 PM  
Anonymous Theo said...

I agree, too complicated, lets stop feeding Howard

March 31, 2005 10:04 AM  
Blogger Gerry said...

I wouldn't bat an eyelid. I'd personally yank the tubes out myself.

We're not talking about an innocent person here. We're talking about an accomplice in a f#cking huge war crime and on top of that the pr*ck sold us to the Yanks and he's trying to shaft East Timor. I think he's quite pleased with himself.

If the worst possible fate befell that man I would not be able to find it in myself to feel any sympathy for him whatsoever. I guess I'm a tad uncharitable...

I think I need to get a lifesize Howard doll so I can punch the shit out of it several times a day. I'd call that anger management...

March 31, 2005 5:58 PM  
Anonymous billie said...

brownie, i agree with your views on this and i know that Terri is no longer with us but i think a lot of people have missed the biggest tragedy of this all. the justice system has let us all down, and not just the people of America, it has affected us all around the world. throughout court battles and arguments over whether she has the right to live or die, Terri was denied (by a court order)nutrients and water until she starved to death! it goes without saying how inhumane this was. i am making no judgement on the fact that they decided to let her die, that is something i am not prepared to judge as i would want to die if i was in the same position, HOWEVER i would never want to die by starvation.
Is there no compassion in this world? A drug induced coma is the absolute LEAST they could have done after making the decision to cut off her supply of water and nutrients she relied on to stay alive.

bastards, every one of them. it was a sad day for humanity when terri passed, my thoughts are with her and i hope she is in a better place where this type of cruelty is not tolerated.

April 01, 2005 9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't read all the comments, so apologies if this has been said before, but I think that that special spark that makes us *us* (some might call it the soul) left the moment Terri entered the permanent vegetative state. That is, I contend that Terri the person ceased to be from that moment on, only the body which had housed Terri remained behind, an empty shell. (Since I never met her before or after she entered the PVS, it's impossible to say if she really was gone, even if I had known her, it still might not be possible to tell.)

Either way, I feel that death by starvation and dehydration is a terrible act. Since early death was mandated for the mortal remains of Terri Schiavo, it could at least have been quick and dignified, like an overdoese of morphine. Anyway, just another $0.02 to the pointless debate.

Cheers.

April 01, 2005 3:41 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Anonyomous, three things:

(1) Woudn't your theory also apply to someone in a coma? How do we (non-Tibetan holy men) really know at what point the soul leaves the body?

(2) Thanks for dropping by.

(3) If you're going to drop by regularly (and you're welcome to) please give yourself a pseudonym so I can tell the anonymous posters apart.

April 02, 2005 12:17 AM  

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