Thursday, March 24, 2005

Harvey the Wonder Hamster and Maureen the Yogi

So far, I've been reluctant to join the masses blogging Terry Schaivo, but it's just too outrageous to pass up. I think starvation is a horrible way to die. That happened to my hamster (yes, it was my fault for forgetting to feed Harvey, but I'm not Sylvia, so get over it), and it wasn't pretty. It's really hard to watch. (Yes, I tried to feed him when I realized it, but he just wouldn't eat, he just sat there, looking weak and pathetic. He just wasn't the same Harvey that would run around on his wheel and escape from his cage every night until we stacked three textbooks on top of the lid.) That being said, it must be understood that Terry can't feel anything, including hunger.

I think there are two important issues up for grabs here:

1) Quality of life.
What makes humans, as yogi Maureen would say, divine? Consciousness. "All life is divine," she says, "treasure it. And remember when you sit down to dinner tonight, that when a fish bites down on a hook, it struggles to stay alive. And that animal on the conveyor belt at a slaughterhouse, it struggled for its life." Ok, so Maureen is a little loopy. What did you expect? But she's making a distinction that many vegetarians mean, but express inaccurately. When vegetarians say, "I don't want to eat anything that was alive," I think, "Gee, that's dumb. Because plants are alive, too." Really, they are. They can't move, but they're living, breathing organisms. Most animals, however, are also fitted with a limbic system, the "part of the mammalian brain that enabled animals to experience and express emotions." This part is responsible for consciousness, and is also called "the mammalian brain", because it is thought to have first appeared in mammals. (Lobsters, who have no central nervous system, do not have a limbic system.) Anyway, my point is this: Terry has lost the function of her limbic system. She is no longer conscious.

2) Individual rights.
Nobody should have the right to decide whether I live or die, except me.

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