Friday, May 27, 2005

Why Terri Matters

Terri Schiavo's situation generated a lot of emotion in this country as the courts wrestled with her difficult situation. In the end, she died of hunger and thirst at the order of courts and recommendation of doctors, but her plight opened the way for a discussion about life: when is it worth living, what is its value, and when "professionals" should be given the authority to make or override decisions that affect this fragile clay jar. In this country, a contention between private citizens ended with appeals to professionals in law and medicine. In the UK, the contention is between the government and the man they are preparing to starve. One unintended consequence of government managed care is the divorce of the payer (the taxpaying citizens) from the recipient of the services. This can produce some significant disconnects between the goals of the two: maximize efficiency of workers (more tax money) vs. live as long and well as possible. And the decision is left, not to an impartial arbitrator, but to one of the interested parties. The consequences, as Leslie Burke now knows, are dire.

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