Not surprisingly, there is an enormous amount of debate around about the battle in the USA over whether or not to withdraw the feeding tube for Terri Schiavo, a woman who has been in a vegetative state for the last 15 years. Cases like these raise immensely difficult issues and strongly held views. My view is that it is impossible for any law to be able to fully resolve some of the complex and competing principles in these situations. This very personal tragedy is compounded by it being played out so brutally in a public arena and being adopted as a political football by some to push their own ideological or theological views. I was going to write something of my own views on this, but frankly it is too hard to summarise and the more I read, the more I feel that judgements should be left to those that know the full facts, as opposed to the propaganda or summaries that are necessarily incomplete. It is impossible to discuss a case like this without emotion coming into it to some extent, but reason is also essential. Some good discussions can be found at this site of a philosophy professorâ€™s in the USA, or once again at Troppo Armadillo.
On a not quite as fraught, but somewhat related topic, the Senate in Australia is currently looking at a Bill which seeks to make it an offence to use the internet to access, transmit or make available material that counsels or incites suicide. The Criminal Code Amendment (Suicide Related Material Offences) Bill 2005 is currently being looked at by the Senateâ€™s Legal and Constitutional Committee. This was originally put forward prior to the election and has been re-introduced by the Government. I can understand the rationale behind it, although I have to say I wonder about its workability and whether it will work as its supporters think it will. Whilst the principles involved may seem simple to some, to me the practical issues are not so straightforward. This is another difficult topic where overly simplistic statements do not always increase understanding.
If you have views on this Bill, I recommend you provide them to the Committee. I will be reading the public submissions with interest.