[Marxism] Re: Terri Schiavo: the right to live, to die, or to kill?
davidquarter at sympatico.ca
davidquarter at sympatico.ca
Tue Mar 22 14:16:52 MST 2005
On 21 Mar 2005 at 9:23, Walter Lippmann wrote:
> The issue posed in MILLION DOLLAR BABY is the right
> of an individual who is profoundly disabled to take
> their own life, including receiving the assistance
> of another individual if that is what is necessary.
> Clint Eastwood's views on other this matter or any
> others wasn't referred to in my comment.
>> Walter Lippmann
> > It does seem that the hospitals certainly stand to make a
> > bundle, to keep making a bundle, off of this tragic woman's
> > situation. This is well-explored in the movie made recently
> > by Clint Eastwood called MILLION DOLLAR BABY, which I will
> > recommend to those concerned with this issue.
> > Walter Lippmann
Without having seen the film myself, I'm familiar enough with Eastwood's politics to
know where he was going with this skit from Million dollar Baby and why the movie
is not something to be divorced from the larger context of how disability is viewed in
majority's eyes in the world today.
In most western societies since the 18th century, disability has been seen as
personal tragedy that (abled bodied) society should either pity or help to eliminate
and consequently very little efforts has (historically) gone towards to
accommodating people deemed to de disabled/terminally ill (Britain to some extent
being the exception). This views continues to have negative repercussions for the
disabled population, as seen with the growth of preventative techologies to detect
disabilities (abnormalities) in the fetus as well as, where disability exists, continued
effort to have the problem eliminated.
At present, the conservative position on disability is to pity individuals so deemed
and, consistent with the view on the control and policing of racialized communities,
to see governments role as "caring for" (ie,.controlling) this population, in a
paternalistic sense. The liberal position, which ironically (or perhaps not) coincides
with, or echoes the sentiments of, eugenicists of the past, see disability as
something also to be pitied yet, if need be, to also be eliminated. For example, it is
increasingly common to abort fetuses on the grounds of the detection of an
"abnormality" and hence the very "real" possibility that were the pregnancy allowed
to carry through the baby would turn out " extremely disabled", and hence would
"lead a horrible existence" and be burden to society.
The small, yet significant gains, made by the disability rights movements in Britain
and to a lesser extent N.American
since the 60s_ as far as breaking downs barriers to access and gaining greater
rights and protections, albeit limited in scope and distribution, for disabled people is
testimony to how far academia have come in reinterpreting disability, that is, from a
personal tragedy to something that is to a larger degree seen as socially
constructed; yet there is still the persistence in mainstream society by persons of all
political stripes in continuing to frame and interpret disability in terms of a "personal
At it stands, pitying goes a long way to determining how people respond to the issue
of "assisted suicide" and when someone in society is pitied for being in a lot of
pain members will often feel, in that instance, that (if the person so chooses)
assisted suicide is warranted. Yet if being in a lot of pain was the threshold in
which we determined when to allow enthusanasian to take place, there would be lot
of dead people right now (e.g., most of the aids infested Africa) and we would be
probably looking back at the Nazis 's killing of the "physically/mentally deficient" as
a laudable policy.
Think about this?
The Nazis and eugenicists believed that the "physically/mentally deficient" (i leave
out Jews and Roma/or "Gypsies" since they were killed on racial grounds) should
die on the rational that the were perpetually sick and hence an incorrigible burden to
themselves and German society. Despite the "liberation " of the death camps, the
practices of killing disabled people ("the physically/mentally deficient") persisted
long after the wars end (at least a good decade or more, as far as i'm aware) and
the justifications or rational used to merit euthanasia, and euthanasia-like policies in
Europe and N. American, today has basically stayed the same.
Take tolerant" Holland for instance where at present euthanasia is legal and where,
increasingly, persons with any sort of "disability", (including clinical depression) are
resorting to the practice: under Dutch law, physicians have the power to end a
patient's life providing (s)he "requested" this, and that certain "Requirements" are
met, specifically: [that] the request must be well considered... the wish for death is
durable...the patient is in unacceptable suffering...the physician has consulted a
colleague who agrees the proposed course of action
This has meant that teenagers, 16-18, who are eligible under the law (providing
their parents are "consulted" during deliberations-- the permission of the parents
for the actual decision to end their life not being necessary See:
http://www.internationaltaskforce.org/hollaw.htm) -- have increasingly resorted to the
This law obviously provides doctors, as the final arbiters for the decision on right to
die, with a fair amount of discretion and considering the already existing authority
they have over patients and the profit that can be generated by the physicians and
businesses in the service of providing assisted suicide we can expect a fair
amount of "misuse" of this practice, as has been well documented:
Although the Schiavo case is perhaps extreme, the argument put forth by
euthanasia proponents against milder "instances" of terminal illness operates on the
same rational and when we fall back on arguments for or against "the choice to live"
or "choice to die" we miss or overlook this point.
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