On September 29, 1993, Robert Wendland, then age 42, was involved in a vehicle accident. He was in a coma for 16 months. In January 1995, Mr. Wendland came out of the coma, but he remains severely cognitively impaired. He is paralyzed on the right side. He communicates using a “Yes/No” communication board. He receives food and fluids through a feeding tube. During rehabilitation, he has been able to do such activities as grasp and release a ball, operate an electric wheelchair with a joystick, move himself in a manual wheelchair with his left hand or foot, balance himself momentarily in a “standing frame” while grabbing and pulling “thera-putty,” draw the letter “R,” and choose and replace requested color blocks out of several color choices.
The Probate Court appointed Robert Wendland’s wife, Rose, as conservator of his person under the Probate Code. Rose sought authorization from the court to remove the feeding tube, thereby starving him to death. Robert’s mother (Florence Wendland) and sister (Rebekah Vinson) objected.
Various groups opposed to active euthanasia became involved in the case with amicus briefs:
Not Dead Yet is a national grassroots organization of people with disabilities formed in response to the increasing popularity of, and laws permitting, physician assisted suicide and euthanasia in the United States and around the world. Not Dead Yet’s mission is to advocate against legalization of physician assisted suicide and euthanasia, and to bring a disability-rights perspective and awareness of the effects of discrimination to the legal and sociological debate around euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. Formed in 1996 in Illinois, Not Dead Yet has worked to educate, support, coordinate and lead the disability community’s effort to stop the “right to die” from becoming a duty to die or a right to kill. While it is impossible to determine how many people with disabilities, family members and allies, call themselves members of Not Dead Yet, members have undertaken specific activities in the name of the organization and in support of its mission in at least 30 states. Not Dead Yet has given invited testimony before the U.S. Congress three times, once before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and twice before the Constitution Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives. When Not Dead Yet members attended the long awaited 1999 trial of Jack Kevorkian (the first after three years of non-prosecution, and scores of assisted suicides of people with non-terminal disabilities) and silently demanded the equal protection of the law, he was convicted.
Human Cloning and the Value of Human Life
Human Cloning and the Value of Human Life
To recognize the value of human life, from conception until its natural end, is an achievement of civilization to be safeguarded as a primary good of the person and of society. Today, however, in many societies it is not unusual to see a sort of regression of civilization, the result of an incomplete and sometimes distorted conception of human freedom, which often finds public legitimization in the State legal system. That is, it happens that the respect due to the inalienable right to life of every human being is opposed by a subjectivist conception of freedom, detached from the moral law. This conception, based on grave errors regarding the person’s very nature and rights, has frequently succeeded by using majority rules, in introducing into the juridical system the legalized suppression of the right to life of innocent, unborn human beings.
When freedom is detached from objective truth it becomes impossible to establish personal rights on a firm rational basis. To affirm a person’s right to freedom while ignoring the objective truth about that same person, makes it impossible to construct an intrinsically just legal system, because it is precisely the human person as he was created who is the foundation and purpose of the social life which the law must serve.
The centrality of the human person in law is effectively expressed by the classical aphorism: “Hominum cause omne ius constitutum est”. This means that law is such if and to the extent to which it is based on man in his truth. Who does not see that this basic principle of every just legal system is being seriously threatened by reductive conceptions of man’s essence and dignity? These concepts have given rise to the…
… middle of paper …
Government leaders themselves cannot shirk this duty, if the value of democracy, which is rooted in recognizing the inviolable rights of every human individual, is to be safeguarded at its very origins.
This is the great challenge to the responsibility of believers posed by the ethical impoverishment of civil laws regarding the protection of certain aspects of human life. The positivistic concept of law, together with ethical relativism, not only eliminates a sure reference point from civil coexistence, but degrades the person’s dignity and threatens the fundamental structures of democracy. I am certain that everyone will do all he can, with courage and clarity, to ensure that civil laws respect the truth of the person and his reality as an intelligent and free being, as well as his spiritual dimension and the transcendent nature of his destiny.