June 10, 2004

Withdrawing Constitutional Protections

I recently had the pleasure of a cousin coming to visit me in Chicago. He's in the political game and enjoys talking philosophy and politics. In our discussion on abortion, he drew the line at brain wave activity. If the unborn child thought, it should not be killed without some sort of medical emergency. I praised him for seeking to restrict abortion by that amount and said I'd be happy to get the law to reflect his position, coming back for the rest of the unborn in another round.

*ding* *ding* round two coming up.

Imagine a strange sort of malady. It absolutely flat lines your brain, killing you if you don't have body support. But if you do have physical support to keep your body going, in 10 weeks, you will wake from your profound vegetative state to eventually make a full recovery. During the time which you don't have brain waves, do you surrender your right to life? Why not?

The common sense position is that if you know you're going to come out of this vegetative state with a very high probability of full function, it makes no sense to pull the plug even weeks and months of monitoring and not detecting a single brain wave. Pulling the plug and killing the patient when there is a reasonable chance for later good health and meaningful independent life is simply not acceptable, especially if the reason to pull the plug is convenience on the part of others. Even if the recovery is only partial, pulling the plug is not ethical, nor would the local prosecutor likely find it legal.

So why does a human life that will almost certainly develop into a normal, thinking, rational individual because brain wave activity has not started yet, though it is almost certain to start in a short time?

Posted by TMLutas at June 10, 2004 07:05 PM