News

    Schiavo Case Raises Ethical Issues

    A family tragedy has turned into a national debate in the United States. Should the feeding tube that was keeping a 41-year-old brain-damaged woman alive for the past 15 years have been removed? The courts have weighed in on the question. So has the U.S. Congress. But the case of Terri Schiavo has raised ethical issues that could have repercussions beyond the fate of one woman.

    Whether siding with Terri Schiavo's parents, who want their daughter to receive nourishment, or her husband, who says Terri would not want to be kept alive like that, difficult ethical issues underlie this tragic case. Many Americans are already debating them: If there is no hope for an individual's recovery, should end-of-life care be continued? And who should make such decisions?

    According to Arthur Caplan, one of America's most prominent bio-ethicists, an even larger ethical quandary is confronting American society.

    AC: "Probably the biggest ethical issue is the battle between those who favor life over those who favor liberty. For many years in American medicine, we've tried to respect the position that people can choose to end medical treatment even if it means they will die. That's probably the hardest ethical battle of all."

    VOA: When you mention life versus liberty, are you just talking about liberty when it comes to medical issues, issues of life and death, or does it creep into other matters involving freedom, involving liberty?

    AC: "The idea that someone can say no to medical treatment has its roots in two concepts. One is the right to be free from unwanted bodily intrusion. No one can touch you or intervene with you without your permission. That's a very core value because even things as basic as the right to not be sexually assaulted or raped come from this notion of freedom, from bodily intrusion. The other core concept is privacy, that you have a right to be left alone, that no one should interfere with you or meddle with you.

    "Those notions of autonomy and privacy, which combine to make this so-called liberty interest, are foundational for many different types of freedoms that individual citizens in the United States enjoy. So to try and compromise the right to say no to medical treatment will probably puzzle courts and create ethical turmoil here, if that's the way things go, because you're tapping into some very core values that support many different areas of choice."

    VOA: If a judge from a court sought you out to get ethical guidance on this how would you advise that judge?

    AC: "I would say this: 'Feeding tubes, Judge, are medical treatments. There are those who would say they are not. I've actually heard statements coming out of the Vatican in the past couple of months that say feeding tubes are ordinary care, more like giving someone a blanket.

    "'But that isn't true. Feeding tubes are surgically implanted. You have to put artificial substances into them to make them work, and you need to have doctors and nurses and technicians to keep them in place without complications. So, Judge, you need to understand that we're talking about a medical treatment. Since it is a medical treatment, people have the right to refuse it, stop it or forego it.'"

    VOA: In this case, unfortunately, Terri Schiavo never wrote down her wishes. And now it comes down to the word of her husband against the word of her parents.

    AC:"So I'd say, 'Judge, we now have a terrible dilemma, a divided family. And you have to decide who you're going to listen to. My view is, the husband has priority over the parents. And I say that because she chose to live with him, she clearly loved him, and that marriage was intact. Now, Judge, if you want to have somebody corroborate or confirm that she may have said these things, he brought forward witnesses who did testify that she said she didn't want to be this way.'"

    VOA: What ethical issues do you foresee discussing with your college students and thinking about or writing about yourself down the road?

    AC: "I think it's very important that we talk about how America deals with science. There is an odd American mixture. We believe -- some of us -- that God, or the divinity, will work a miracle and Terri will come back to us. But at the same time, we keep talking about 'you can't take a feeding tube away.' So we have two gods: technology and, for some of us, a religious god. And for some purposes of public policy, it's sometimes hard to see how both can be elevated at the same time. That's the American dilemma."

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    X
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.
    Video

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.
    Video

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora