Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Utilitarian Bioethics and the Ideology of the Terri Schiavo Tragedy

Comparing differing conclusions today from Steven Taylor (who supports withholding food and water from Schiavo) and LaShawn Barber (who does not), James Joyner of Outside the Beltway concludes:
Clearly, this case is not one that divides us neatly along Left-Right, Republican-Conservative, religious-nonreligious, or similar lines. And, however passionate this case makes us, it's possible for honorable, decent people to differ.
I disagree. It does, but not in the usual clearcut way. Jeb Bush and Republicans in Congress have reacted to pleas from their constituency rather than ideological concerns (despite ABC's shameful push poll), and this much, at least, supports Joyner's position. Honest people on the Right can indeed disagree.

But the motivations from the other side are nothing if not ideological. The Right to Privacy (one of the stealth rights discovered in the Constitution by activist jurists) is being defended here by the Left. This "right" has been the justification for the continuing Baby Holocaust occurring in America since the Roe v. Wade decision. The Left is cynically participating in the murder of Terri Schiavo solely to protect its past ideological gains. That's why no one on the Left wants Terri to get an MRI, or to be evaluated by disinterested experts. That's why anyone who tries to bring water to Terri is being arrested (even children). The Left believes that life for Terri Schiavo would represent a blow to the Right of Privacy.

Terri Schiavo's starvation also represents a triumph for Utilitarian Bioethics, the special project of Princeton professor Peter Singer. Shorn of the argot of Academia, Utilitarian Bioethics is a philosophy that sees human happiness as a zero-sum game. Therefore, all resources, including medical should be doled out on the basis of what will best increase the total of human happiness, which sounds benign enough until the real ramifications become apparent. Adolf Hitler executed many who were not Jews, but who were blind, lame, or mentally retarded. Adolf Hitler was practicing Utilitarian Bioethics. The ethos clearly calls for withholding medical care from, and even murdering, those who are less than perfect. This can mean anyone with a physical or mental defect, or even anyone without the capacity to experience "happiness" fully enough to satisfy the Bioethics Committee.

Utilitarian Bioethics is the ultimate secular philosophy. There is no room for a deity when the Bioethics Committee is God. And the death of Terri Schiavo will serve the goals of the Utilitarians. Advancing a philosophical position in society is ideology at work. Those working for the death of Terri Schiavo are advancing a cold, soulless ideology.