The Sanctity of Life Essay

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An examination into the case of Theresa Schiavo demonstrates both sides of the fierce medico-political debate over the sanctity versus quality of life. Shortly after her marriage in 1990, Mrs. Schiavo suffered cardiac arrest which deprived her brain of oxygen for approximately eleven minutes, more than five minutes longer than medical experts believe is possible without consequence of serious and irreversible brain damage. She fell into a persistent vegetative state (PVS). Thus began a fifteen year battle over the sanctity and quality of Mrs. Schiavo’s life.
Mr. Schiavo maintained that it was Mrs. Schiavo’s wish that she not be kept alive in a persistent vegetative state. Her parents fought to keep her alive believing that some miracle would bring her out of the PVS. Experts on both sides of the debate weighed in. Bioethicists, experts in the treatment of terminally and chronically ill patients, overall agreed with Mr. Schiavo that prolonging her life would not lead to a productive life as she would never recover. They further found that he was acting in her best interests, not for want of personal gain.
Meanwhile, politicians attempted to exact their personal beliefs into the medical decisions that needed to be made. They went so far as to enact “Terry’s Law” replacing State court jurisdiction with Federal District Court jurisdiction. This law gave Mrs. Schiavo’s parents a way around the lower court’s ruling upholding Mr. Schiavo’s rights as her guardian and next of kin. However, this law was later ruled unconstitutional. As a result, Mr. Schiavo’s medical decisions were eventually fulfilled and Mrs. Schiavo was permitted to pass peacefully and naturally. The sanctity of Mrs. Schiavo’s life was preserved by wei...

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... things that one intentionally sets out to achieve or obtain. Life is not an ultimate value, but yet a basic value. The conclusion can then be drawn that while life must exist for value to exist, the purpose in living is not the continuation of physical biological mechanisms. The purpose in living then becomes the way in which one lives and achieves one’s values. In essence, the purpose in life becomes the pursuit of values. The ultimate value of maximizing quantity of life should be balanced with maximizing quality of life.
Life, and thus sanctity of life, is finite; death is irrefutable. Quality of life is infinite. Every minute of life is an opportunity to learn and experience it to its abounding potential. While subjective, it is hubris and narcissistic to purport to know which is best, sanctity or quality of life, when examining the life of others.

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