Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Which Question When

The autopsy of Terri Schiavo has been released. For those who felt strongly about one position or another, this changes squat.

As long as I have written about the case, I had described it as chaotic. Not chaotic in the sense that matters were out of everyone's control, but in the sense that one's view of the matter was sensitively dependant on one's philosophical beliefs. I've made a decision tree detailing some of the questions I came up with, doubtless there is more.
  1. Does the soul exist?
  2. If so, is its presence or absence absolutely linked to the state of the body?
  3. If yes, then Terri's soul would have been entombed in a body incapable of sensing or communicating with its environment. If the soul is still aware while the body is in such a state, it would be the state in which most people, and presumably Terri, would not wish to continue to live. Is any state of physiological activity preferable to one's reward in the after life?
  4. If no to #2, then at what state of physiological damage does the soul leave the body? If Terri was below that state, then Terri would not have required Michael's assistance in relieving her of entrapment.
  5. If the soul does not exist, then how much damage to the brain can be withstood before the mind ceases to be the same identity as the person before the damage? Beyond that particular level of damage, Michael's obligation to his wife's presumed wishes would be satisfied as that which was Terri is no more.
These barely scratch the surface of the questions brought up in this tragedy. Any questions as to the husband's motives or the cause of her injury are further complications, but in my mind they rank secondary to the question of whether Terri still existed within the body that lived.

Of course, the fact that I say that the state of the soul is the primary concern is the first of many divergence points in this discussion. In the end, I suppose the main determinant of one's final opinion would be what precise sequence one pondered the questions.

Update: John Cole looks at a some comments made elsewhere as to why this does not satisfy many of the "Life for Terri" supporters. I figure that just asking my questions above, I would be considered part of the "Culture of Death". [Cue Darth Vader respirator effect]

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