Bioethicist: Terri is a “human, non-person”
March 29, 2005
At National Review Online, Wesley J. Smith describes his debate on the Schiavo case with Florida bioethicist Bill Allen on Court TV Online. The following exchange ensued:
Wesley Smith: Bill, do you think Terri is a person?
Bill Allen: No, I do not. I think having awareness is an essential criterion for personhood. Even minimal awareness would support some criterion of personhood, but I don’t think complete absence of awareness does.
The article continues:
If you want to know how it became acceptable to remove tube-supplied food and water from people with profound cognitive disabilities, this exchange brings you to the nub of the Schiavo case — the “first principle,” if you will. Bluntly stated, most bioethicists do not believe that membership in the human species accords any of us intrinsic moral worth. Rather, what matters is whether “a being” or “an organism,” or even a machine, is a “person,” a status achieved by having sufficient cognitive capacities. Those who don’t measure up are denigrated as “non-persons.”
And we’ve all heard about “bioethicist” Peter Singer, who believes that infanticide is morally justified in some cases. If it weren’t so tragic we could laugh at the notion that they call themselves ethicists. But where we used to think the Peter Singers of the world were freak exceptions, I’m not so sure anymore. I believe society is being conditioned to be more and more comfortable with decisions to terminate the inconvenient.