As a generality I think we as a culture, are becoming far too selfishly frivolous when it comes to matters of life and death. Or put another way: those who are most in need of protection are having that protection rationalized away from them. Those in the womb, those whose “plug” gets pulled, and many in the nursing home are being marginalized and stripped of their inherent value for — let’s face it, the convenience of others.
Some argue for rationing certain health care options for the elderly because of their age and the time-limited future they have left. Why spend copious amounts of time and money (hospital rooms, medications, and surgeries) on an 85 year-old to prolong their lives when they only have a few years left anyway? Every so often there is someone writing some essay defending the (for lack of a more sophisticated term) ‘mercy killing‘ of the elderly. Because the elderly pose a potential financial burden on either themselves, relatives, or the government, some make the case that it is more feasible to plan “end of life care”, which is a euphemism for: either get your affairs in order and die, or we will get your affairs in order for you and “convince” you this is the right thing to do.
Then there are those who would coerce, to whatever degree, family members to remove life support for their loved ones in an unresponsive state. The reasoning employed here is quality of life. Quality of life is as ambiguous and self-serving as the personhood defense for abortion. It is a subjective set of qualifications which may be adjusted depending upon who needs to pass or fail the protection test. “What kind of life is it that they just lay there unconscious like that? I know I wouldn’t want to be kept alive like this” or some other such rationale is given. Now, it’s one thing if the patient has stated that they would prefer to be removed from the support, but it’s another thing all together to make that decision for them.
Next is the ever-present social hot button issue of abortion. Abortion defenders will go to any lengths necessary to ensure a mother has the legal ability to end the life of her child while it is still in the womb arguing (falsely) that it is not human or not alive. Although the only one’s arguing for post-natal abortion i.e., infanticide, are philosophers, we are not far from a time when some group will lobby for post-natal abortion. Defenders of abortion make their case saying that the pre-born baby is missing some intellectual qualities i.e., personhood all the while making exemptions for post-birth human beings in the same psychological state.
The criteria for personhood is routinely being adjusted depending on who it is that they are trying to have fail the test: the pre-born baby, the vegetative woman on life-support, or 93 year-old who needs a laborious and expensive surgery. And why, because they get in the way. They create some kind of burden on someone else’s desires and aspirations.
Babies get in the way of sexual liberty. The solution isn’t killing the child, it’s abstaining until you are financially and emotionally prepared for children. But of course, sexual liberty trumps life when it gets in the way. The invalid elderly and someone on life support create a financial and emotional burden on family members, or the government. Their life gets too expensive, money drives life decisions. It takes time and patience to care for the invalid and the medically dependent. My grandmother had to rely on my mother and aunt for all her basic needs. I saw how emotionally and time-consuming it is. It wasn’t easy. But who ever said life is supposed to be easy and comfortable? Sure, you could pull the plug, or withhold nutrition, but is it for your benefit, or theirs.
It seems to be the case that groups of human beings who were once worthy of having their lives protected simply by virtue of their being human is gradually dwindling. Over time, cases are being made as to why certain demographics of people are being targeted for death. And not just arbitrary groups either. The ones being targeted are the most vulnerable among us. Who is more vulnerable than a baby in the womb? An unconscious patient in a hospital bed? Or an elderly individual who may not be able to speak up for themselves? It is these who are the least able to stand up for themselves that are being marginalized.