Every person, no matter what his or her physical or mental state, makes a constant implicit decision to live life, as opposed to dying. This essay shall analyze the nature of such an implicit decision and why it implies the immorality both of suicide and of the forced termination of another human being, as happened to Terri Schiavo in 2005.
Terri Schiavo made the decision to continue living after she experienced her tragic collapse on February 25, 1990. She made that decision just as you, the reader, are making that decision right now by continuing to read this essay and not dying instantaneously.
As the philosopher Ayn Rand would have stated, each individual is faced with a fundamental existential choice: to live or to die. Every second of his continued existence affirms the former selection. The only way to consistently make the latter choice is to become silent, spout no theories, and die.
Even those who attempt suicide do not fit into that category, since, to decide to commit suicide, one must be alive and thus must implicitly affirm the choice to live; to choose to live and die simultaneously is an irreconcilable contradiction and thus immoral, since morality stems from purely consistent reason. This is also why, whatever the legality of such acts may be, any deed committed intentionally and to the detriment of one’s life is immoral, as it exhibits the suicidist’s contradiction to a lesser extent.
One does not have to have the full use of one’s faculties at some given moment to be making the implicit choice to live at that moment. When one is asleep, one has scant use of any of his volitional faculties. Nonetheless, it is a commonsense presumption that the sleeping person implicitly wishes to live, and it would be a crime to kill him.
Similarly, an infant has no systematic, unambiguous means of communicating his desire to live, yet no sensible individual would suggest that the infant lacks such a desire. Yet many infants are even less capable of sustaining themselves without external assistance than Terri Schiavo was.
While Terri could at least have a feeding tube connected to her and automatically deliver nutritious substances to her organism at regulated time intervals, an infant has to be lifted from its crib and given a bottle (or spoon-fed) by another person every time it is hungry. If the proponents of Terri’s death wished to be consistent, would they suggest that the guardians of all infants ought to be allowed to terminate them because the infants are in “persistent vegetative states”?