[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 government’s 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 war’s 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
See:  http://www.euthanasia.cc/dutch.html#guide
 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: 
See: http://www.internationaltaskforce.org/ 
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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