“Arguments about Terri’s case centered on something described as a ‘culture of life.’ It is an empty suit of a phrase, absent an individual to give it shape. There is no culture of life. There is the culture of your life, and the culture of mine. There is what each of us considers bearable, and what we will not bear. There are those of us who believe that under certain conditions the cruelest thing you can do to people you love is to force them to live. There are those of us who define living not by whether the heart beats and the lungs lift but whether the spirit is there, whether the music box plays.
There are many ways in which this case has been divvied up in public… But it is truly about that thing that defines free human beings: the right to self-determination instead of a one-size-fits-all approach in private matters, in those issues that take place in bedrooms and kitchens and hospices. It’s a primal demand for a personal sense of control in the face of intrusive government, intrusive medicine and intrusive strangers who think holding a crucifix like a blunt instrument makes them righteous when it really only makes them sanctimonious…
The Schiavo case has asked us to look at our own definition of life, not at some formless notion cobbled out of the Bible, medical textbooks and impersonal sentiment.
…Once the feeding tube was removed, polls showed that the majority of Americans believed Terri Schiavo should be allowed to die. That’s probably because they’ve been there. They are the true judges and lawmakers and priests. They’ve been at the bedside, watching someone they love in agony as cancer nipped at the spine, as the chest rose and fell with the cruel mimicry of the respirator, as the music of personality dwindled to a single note and then fell silent. They know life when they see it, and they know it when it is gone.”Apr. 4, 2005