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October 29, 2003



Amy writes: "Quality of life judgements are not, and never have been an acceptable element in traditional Christian thinking on this, and I don't mean "quality of life" as we factor it into the question of weighing burdens and benefits: I mean: because this person has this disability or this condition, he or she is better off dead."

I honestly don't understand this point (and I'm sympathetic to the Schindlers). If we legitimately conclude that it is excessively burdensome for an individual to receive the treatment necessary to keep him or her alive, aren't we saying that the burden of being alive exceeds the benefit and that the person is indeed better off dead?

Yann The Frenchman

Amy you nailed it beautifully and precisely:

"(...) God is the author of life, so we do not have the right to intentionally take it away, and...God is the author of life, so that when we discern, through all the clouds of unknowing, that it is time, we gracefully allow him to take that life (...)"

What an excellent post showing how to avoid the pitfalls of euthanasia and therapeutic relentlessness (life at all costs). Both cases being the result of a lack of trust in God to take care of the situation at hand ... It is important to understand what palliative care is and how it can be fostered in today's medial environment.


Cornelius, I really think there is a difference. I admit, it's an intuition and I state it poorly, and I was frankly hoping some would help me flesh it out!

Grant Gallicho

Cornelius highlights something missing from Amy's posts. Undue burden. What are we to make of this as a health-care resource issue?


To respond to Grant and Amy, one possible rationale behind Amy's intuition might be that when we say the burdens of keeping someone alive are excessive, we are not saying they are excessive relative to the benefits of that person living, but excessive relative to some other standard, such as what society can afford. So, in other words, we aren't saying the person would be better off dead, just that society can't afford to keep this person alive.

But that rationale seems off-base for at least two reasons: 1) in our rich society, it might suggest that the burdens of keeping someone alive are never excessive (which is inconsistent with even the most conservative medical practices today), and 2) it allows the length of a person's life to be determined directly by his or her usefulness/cost to society.


Undo burden doesn't apply in Terri's case. Her parents are willing to accept the 'burden' of caregivers. Terri is not burden with physical pain and according to her authorities even on her husband's side, is capable of feeling no physical pain. Her husband clearly has been capable of moving beyond his marriage vows. So who exactly is being burdened by Terri's life? Her parents would carry the only burden if they are forced to watch their innocent daughter be the victim of state sanctioned murder.


Sorry above should have read "capable of feeling no mental pain"


Two words: Ted Williams.

Glenn Juday

The essential, line-in-the-sand point is that we cannot take any action that represents the directly willed death of an innocent person. Withholding food and water exceeds any reasonable interpretation of that standard. To do so is to embrace original sin (pretending that"...you will become like God") rather than attempting to transcend original sin as we spend most of each day doing. The Devil, superior intellect that he is, knows that we recoil from the cold bloodedness of unjust taking of innocent human life. So what does he do - give up? Not on your life! He manipulates (get the full sense of that word in its specific application to this case) our thinking and works with a part of our emotions that normally serve us well, and uses them to confuse us into serving death out of what we want to believe (original sin again) are good motives. Got to hand it to him - he's a real craftsman at what he does. He's got lots of not-so-bad people doing his bidding, and doing so with the rhetoric of autonomy, freedom, choice. Brilliant guy! And otherwise bright people who are facilitating his twisted designs are mostly impervious to appeals to logic, because they have fallen victim to the illusion (and sin) of self-sufficiency - actually believe that they are smarter than God. Pittiful. Except, of course, that we have access to Truth, so real it has become a person and dwelled among us. We are outmatched by our adversary, but unbeatable with our ally. And we win in the end.

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