It’s not death that frightens me, but the act of dying and Terri Schiavo, who may be allowed to die this Easter after suffering brain damage in 1990, shows how horrific the dying process can be. While it’s inevitable that the case focuses on Terri the individual and, right now, her arguable ability to say ‘ahhhhh’ or ‘waaaaaaa’ if asked, that’s not the main thing at all. It’s barbaric to keep somebody alive artificially and without the ability to lead their life. It means forcing them to exist somewhere between a very real purgatory – trapped inside a broken body and fated to stare for all eternity at hospital walls – and being dead already. Yet the only option left is itself barbaric.
To be ‘allowed to die’ is normally presented as a dignified fading away, but actually means being left to starve over a period of weeks. The victim may be capable feeling excruciating pangs of hunger, after all food and water are our most basic needs. It has the potential to be a very cruel death indeed.
A true death with dignity would surely involve an element of mercy. Drawing a distinction between the removal of a feeding tube and the administration of a morphine overdose shows philosophy and religion at their most pointless. I’m sure that I’d want the second best option of starvation, but should the time come, I’d much prefer a swift and genuinely dignified end.
Pope on Life support… forever?