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    Wednesday, March 23, 2005

    Schiavo Thought

    I do eventually plan to write my feelings about Terri Schiavo, but work has been intense this week and I want to do it right when I do it. In the meantime, here’s a piece from
    Light of Reason. Remember, this is the viewpoint of a hardcore libertarian. I’m excerpting part – you should read the rest.

    This country was founded on the recognition of individual rights. The government properly exists solely to protect those rights. If you do not have the right to determine what happens to your own body, you have no rights at all. Let’s leave aside borderline questions here. These fundamental principles lead to the following results: they are why a military draft is absolutely wrong (if the government has the power to tell you how to spend one day of your life, let alone several years, and if you can’t control whether you live or die, you have no rights worth speaking of); they are the reason a woman has the right to abortion and has reproductive rights more generally (if she can’t determine whether to have a child or not, and whether close to 20 years of her life [at a minimum] will be largely devoted to caring for a child she may not want or be prepared to have, she has no other rights worth mentioning); and they are also the reason a person has the right to refuse any sort of medical treatment at all.

    At this point, it is nothing but the most obvious of red herrings to argue that Terri Schiavo’s wishes cannot be determined. That is precisely the question that has been litigated, over and over and over again, for close to a decade in the Florida courts. Every conceivable factual dispute has been addressed. The courts made the best determination they could, on the basis of the available evidence. And they concluded that the husband properly has the right to terminate medical treatment.
    And note this well. The primary and most important issue that the courts decided was this one: that, to the best of their ability to determine, Terri Schiavo herself would not have wanted treatment to continue. In other words, the courts have recognized that Terri Schiavo had the right to determine what happened to her own body.

    If you can’t determine that, you have no other rights. And if Congress has the power (not the right, mind you—language is critical here) to tell even one individual that he or she must have treatment when the person does not want it, then we are all nothing more than slaves in principle.

    And that is the totality of the argument. Argue about details all you want; it won’t change the fundamental principles involved.

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