In a previous post I brought out how support for saving Terri's life is coming from both sides of the political spectrum. To some this is an issue of discrimination against the disabled, as an able person in Terri's general state of health would never have been a candidate for such treatment. To others the issue is the intrinsic value of human life as the image-bearer of God, and man having no authority from God to take it under these circumstances.
What I see here is the basis for some real cooperation between these two groups. If we can manage to work together, we can save some lives. What we agree on is that sustenance and medical care ought not be withheld from people because they are disabled and because they cannot speak for themselves.
Baby John Doe is born with an obstructed esophagus. A fairly simple, and rather common surgical procedure will clear the obstruction and enable Baby John to eat. Will the procedure be done? If John is otherwise normal in his development and condition, there is no question. He will have the surgery and live. However, if John is a Downs Syndrome baby, a condition that also causes mental retardation and other disabilities, there is a question. Many Downs Syndrome babies are born with this condition and some are denied the procedure and die from lack of food and water.
Both the disability advocacy crowd and the pro-life crowd think Baby John Doe should be protected. When you look at the lobbying power of these two groups, their sphere of influence is huge. The disability advocates have the ear of the left, the pro-life crowd has the ear of the right.
So can we work together and get this thing done? Can we band together and protect the lives of folks like Terri Schiavo and Baby John who cannot speak for themselves? I think we can.
What could destroy efforts at cooperation on this is the issue of euthanasia. The right might wish to prohibit all euthanasia and the left may wish to firmly establish a "right to die," for those who can clearly communicate that choice. If we can discipline ourselves to leave those issues out of any proposed legislation and narrowly define our purpose for now to protecting the voiceless disabled, we can avoid the disagreement that could derail our efforts. I am not suggesting anyone compromise their principles on this. I am suggesting the issues be treated separately rather than lumping them together, for the sake of the Terris and Baby Johns of this world.
Left and right can work together on this and do some good. We can protect the lives of many people, especially infants and those whose disabilities diminish their consciousness, intelligence, or communication abilities. So let's do it. Let's start asking our legislators for this. Let's start writing about this issue. Let's start asking the established advocacy groups for pro-life and disability causes to use their lawyers and their lobbying power to help us get this thing done.