Sunday, March 20, 2005

Vitalism Uber Alles

It's Sunday, I'm lazy, and the whole Terry Schiavo thing has worn down my last nerve. People who have followed my blog since it's inception (I know who you are, you two!) know how I feel about the massive freak show it has been turned into by the Vitalistas and the Republican-run Congress, so at Corrente this morning I have re-posted a piece I did on euthanasia, originally posted at American Street.

Vitalism, raised by Garret Keizer in the article the post references, is the belief that a non-tangible force, unmeasurable by science, is necessary to the creation and existence of life. Keizer uses it to describe the heartlessly reductive proof used by so-called "pro-lifers" to determine whether a life worth saving exists.

In this proof formulation, the mere presence of breath or physical movement of some kind in a human/human fetus equates with full personhood and grants that being every legal and moral right we recognize for our species. In fact, carrying the right DNA tag seems to be the only criteria the Vitalistas need for kindly giving others permission to make decisions about whether to allow someone a merciful death or force them into a long, painful and humiliating one. As Keizer suggests, people who wouldn't even allow a dog to suffer are perfectly content to sit back and watch a human being bear the most horrific and long-term agonies on his or her way to that final blessed moment of relief.

And on the other side of the debate, those who have fought for the right of individuals to make their own choices about the kind of death they will have are so cowardly about it that they have accepted the ridiculous idea that taking someone like Schiavo off a feeding tube and letting her slowly starve is somehow morally superior to putting an end to her suffering immediately with a humane morphine drip. Caught between such opposing camps of "humanitarians", is it any wonder Hunter Thompson chose a gun?

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