Saturday, March 12, 2005

Cognitive Exam For Personhood

Matt Conigliaro has a Web site called Abstract Appeal with a section on the Schiavo case. He tries to be unbiased (his interests are primarily in Florida law), but ultimately he tends to be sympathetic to "the process," and since "the process" right now has indicated Terri must die, all in all it's hard not to see him favoring that outcome. One passage on this site sums up the fallacy that will keep giving momentum to the euthanasia movement:

"[Terri's parents] believe Terri would not want, and does not want, her feeding tube removed, and that some cognitive function could be restored through new therapies. . . . You're left with a public that is much confused. Some see video clips of Terri moving, appearing to make eye contact, and making sounds, and they assume such are the product of conscious thought -- that Terri's 'in there.'"

The presumption here is that personhood is determined by some "cognitive function" emanating from an unseen entity who's "in there." As long as this is our operating principle, we will lose the euthanasia argument, and the door will have been opened for trampling the rights of those who can't measure up cognitively and are presumptively less "in there" than "normal" people.
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