Religion, Life, and Rights in the UK
Despite being a moderate libertarian, I do read right-wing blogs every now and then. For one, it is interesting (and even amusing sometimes) to see what the right is talking about. More importantly, by seeing the sorts of arguments that they present, it helps me keep things in perspective.
Anyway, while doing so this evening, I came across this particular controversy in Portsmouth, UK. The subject is a child named Charlotte who was born premature in 2003 and has subsequently suffered damage to various organs, including the brain and lungs. She is currently dying, and is suffering from an "aggressive chest infection". The doctors, believing that it is now futile to try to keep her alive, has petitioned a judge to rescind an order mandating that she should always be resuscitated. The only problem is, the parents are against this, and as one might expect, this has caused quite a stir with the religious right, who have sensationalized this with labels such as "death sentence".
This smacks of Terry Schiavo, where apparently, the parents* and the right-wing commentators know more than the doctors. If the doctors qualified their belief that attempts to keep her alive are futile with "medical evidence speaks with one voice", I think it would be prudent to defer to their assessment. Admittedly, it does seem odd that they would overrule parental judgment, but should they be obligated to perform a procedure that they do not believe would be effective solely at the insistence of the parents? Nevertheless, it seems that the doctors could have saved a lot of trouble if they just conceded and let the unfolding of events speak for themselves.
But in respect to religion, there is something that I don't quite understand. What if it was God's will for her to die? Would resorting to such medical solutions constitute meddling? If they counter by holding that God is omnipotent and that it is not possible for these medical procedures to meddle with the issue of life and death, then why bother using them, for if that is so, then she will live as long as such is the will. Furthermore, shouldn't they be happy that she will be going to heaven? It seems to me that even on religious grounds, there seems to be a degree of irrationality here. Then again, it is by no means fair to expect parents to be rational during such emotional situations, and their response is certainly justified. But what about all the right-wing commentators who are raising a fuss over this? My problem with this is mostly against the religious right rallying around this banner; why on Earth is Stop the ACLU concerned about a case like this in the UK anyway?
From the perspective of the secular humanist, I think that the doctors are right. Imagine the kind of life this person would have with such a damaged brain and body! Of course, there is also the burden to society that such a person would pose. I know that last bit sounds extremely distasteful, but it is a sort of consideration that is taken into account more often than one would think. Imagine how many lives would be saved each year by way of quicker response if there was a fire station and a hospital located on every single city block. Yet, we do not have this because the costs of such a proposal, and by doing that, every one of us has just placed a price on life without explicitly acknowledging it.
* Although it is politically incorrect to point this out, the mother is 24 and is apparently quite religious, and as such, I think that it would be prudent to side with the doctors when it comes to medical opinion.
This entry was edited on 2006/02/28 at 01:45:19 GMT -0500.