Those on the Left who support right-to-die laws in general, and the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube specifically, tend to justify their position by talking about the unnecessary suffering of the terminally ill, or by arguing that one's personal autonomy ought to extend, if possible, to the hour and manner of one's own demise.
But many on the Right characterize these positions differently. They say they are indicative of a "culture of death." The say that liberals/lefties who support the right to die are "pro-death," leading us down a slippery slope that begins with pulling Terri Schiavo's life support and ends with a society which grants human life only conditional value, where the elderly or handicapped, the undesirable and inconvenient, are unceremoniously disposed of for the sake of the 'greater good'. At this point, many invoke the specter of the Holocaust, as Peggy Noonan does here:
Once you "know" ... that human life is not so special after all ... then everything is possible, and none of it is good. When a society comes to believe that human life is not inherently worth living, it is a slippery slope to the gas chamber. You wind up on a low road that twists past Columbine and leads toward Auschwitz.
Now, according to Noonan, the Left's championing of "pro-death" policies is not merely a result of good intentions combined with a foolish myopia, but of left-wing infatuation with death itself:
I do not understand the emotionalism of the pull-the-tube people ... They seem to have fallen half in love with death ...
The pull-the-tube people say, "She must hate being brain-damaged." Well, yes, she must ... Who wouldn't feel extreme sadness at being extremely disabled? I'd weep every day, wouldn't you? But consider your life. Are there not facets of it, or facts of it, that make you feel extremely sad, pained, frustrated, angry? But you're still glad you're alive, aren't you? Me too. No one enjoys a deathbed. Very few want to leave.
Terri Schiavo may well die. No good will come of it. Those who are half in love with death will only become more red-fanged and ravenous.
But Peggy is being restrained. David Limbaugh says that the Left has a "lust for death," and Timothy Birdnow at The American Thinker accuses Leftists of being members of a virtual cult of death, and tries "to elucidate the deep, convoluted workings of the Humanist mind and explain what is to us a bizarre impulse to kill." His conclusions?
Many in the [sanctity of life] camp ... can't understand the zeal with which people are trying to kill Terri Schiavo ... I would argue that this eagerness is a natural outgrowth of the deeper root philosophy of liberalism, and that the culture of death as Pope John Paul II has termed it, is fundamental to who liberals are and what they believe.
First, we need a term to better describe those who, for whatever reason, have joined the ranks of those supporting death. They are called by too many different names; Pro-choice, Pro-abortion, Pro-euthanasia, Pro-stem cell research, Physician assisted suicide advocates, etc. It becomes far too confusing with so many labels. We need a one-size-fits-all term.
Grateful Dead fans are called deadheads. Fans of Rush Limbaugh are called dittoheads, Fans of Jimmy Buffet are parrotheads, Ah, maybe that's it! Maybe deathheads! They are fans and enthusiasts for Death, and they are the last visage many poor souls will see, if they get their way.
Hmm ... "deathheads." Has a certain ring to it.
But what is behind the deathheads' ardor for the annihilation of human life?
What is it that motivates the deathheads? Why are they so eager in their pursuit of death? ...The liberals have fought a three hundred year war against Christ, and if man and reason are to make suitable replacement gods, they must have certain divine powers. But what powers can a substitute god have? God is the Author of life, but man can be the author of death.
This obsession with death can be seen throughout history. Consider the butchery during the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the Nazi atrocities. Consider the careless disregard for life by all the former communist regimes. In Leftist societies, life is cheap ... To the deathheads, human will is the final master, and death serves as an instrument of that will.
By controlling the time, place, and manner of death, the deathheads have a semblance of the powers of the divine. Possibly, that is why the death of Terri Schiavo is so important to them ... If they could force the death of Terri despite the pro-life forces arrayed against them, they would establish their right to command death for the innocent. If they have the right to kill when their reason adjudges it necessary, they have established their coequality with the Creator.
So just to recap Birdnow's argument: liberals and leftists are conspiring to kill God and to assume His throne ourselves. We love death, because it makes us powerful. Also, the Nazis were Leftists.
He seems to have left out our infant-sacrificing Pagan blood orgies, but I'm sure that was just an oversight.
My God, we lefties are sick bastards. Were not my soul so malevolent, and my mind so depraved, I wouldn't be capable of looking in a mirror without becoming ill from the sheer horror of my existence.
But the real victims of the deathheads?The children, of course. Peggy Noonan again:
And those who are still learning--our children--oh, what terrible lessons they're learning. What terrible stories are shaping them ... They are seeing a society--their society, their people--on the verge of famously accepting, even embracing, the idea that a damaged life is a throwaway life ... It cannot be good for our children, and the world they will make, that they are given this new lesson that human life is not precious, not touched by the divine, not of infinite value.
We should have known--it's all about the children. What will we tell the children?
I have an idea.
Tell them the same thing that I am going to tell Noonan, Limbaugh, and the others on the Right who can't comprehend how death could ever be preferable to life:
Peggy, David, Timothy: you are going to die.
Everyone you know is going to die.
Your family members, your friends, all the people you love: destined for the grave, one and all.
Good or bad, sooner or later, like it or not: dead, every one of them. You too. There is no avoiding this.
What you take to be a "love of" or "lust for" death is simply a recognition of this inevitability.
Birdnow claims that the deathheads are utilitarians, seeking only to minimize suffering. This is half right. "Deathheads" do indeed recognize utilitarian considerations; purposeless suffering is inherently bad, and should be minimized when possible. Why force a terminally ill patient to undergo another three months of life that will be spent in constant pain?
But utilitarian considerations are not the only relevant concerns. The driving moral idea behind the right-to-die movement, if it can be called that, is a Kantian respect for the autonomy of the individual.
The reason Terri Schiavo is dying (dead?) is not because she is a nuisance to her husband. It is not because we view her as human refuse. It is not even because she is suffering. It is because the courts have found that it is what she wanted. As far as the state is concerned, Terri Schiavo made this decision herself. Which is as it should be.
Note well: it is not that Terri Schiavo has decided to die. No one decides to die, because one cannot decide where there is no other option. What she decided was that, faced with the option of dying young or living for forty years as a vegetable, she would prefer the former.
Peggy Noonan and David Limbaugh may not agree with that choice, but that is irrelevant, because it is not their choice to make. If they like, they can create living wills stipulating that life support not be removed under any circumstances. Terri made a different choice, and for her sake, as well as for the sake of all those who have made a similar decision regarding their own destiny, should they be unfortunate enough to meet with the same fate that she has, that choice must be respected, and her wishes must be honored.