I believe that everyone has the right to commit suicide. I also believe that everyone has the obligation to accept responsibility for the consequences of their actions. So that's a bit of a conundrum, right there, and I don't claim that I know how fully to resolve it. Even still.
Anyone who makes a "living will" (and there's a strange bit of terminology for you) should, I believe, have the wishes expressed in that will respected by everyone else. If you don't want a blood transfusion, more fool you, but it's your decision. You don't want to be put on a life support machine, that's your decision. You don't want to be fed, that's your decision. Fair enough. But what you absolutely do not have the right to do is to make it anyone else's decision. How dare you force me to decide whether to kill you? How dare you do that to my conscience?
And that was my response to the late Terri Schiavo. Maybe she didn't want to live like that; maybe she would have asked for the tube to be removed, had she been able to. But she didn't make a living will, so tough shit. What she wanted didn't come into it. In the absence of clear instructions from her, she should have been kept alive, even if it were against her will. She didn't have the right to make her suicide anyone else's responsibility. And, to be fair to her, she didn't try to.
It is very sad that the Florida courts do not share my opinion. It is very sad that so many people think that comments made in passing and reported second-hand should have enough legal weight to kill. I've made comments like that before. I don't want them dredged up in court with my life hanging in the balance.
Now, I'm not in Florida, but public opinion in the UK seems to be similarly split as in the US. There are plenty of people here in Britain who, were I comatose, would presume to speak on my behalf, despite never having known me; plenty of people who would earnestly tell my doctors that what I really wanted was death. And who knows where British law is headed? So I'd better make myself absolutely clear.
If I'm ever unlucky enough to find myself suffering from locked-in syndrome, if there's no improvement after one year, I want to die. Having a completely active mind and a totally paralysed body would be hell, and I don't think it's something I could stand. Aside from that, I choose life. If I'm comatose, keep me alive. If I can even twitch just one finger, keep me alive. If I can grunt incoherently, keep me alive. If I can communicate at all, no matter how pains-takingly, keep me alive. If I need a feeding tube, leave it in. If my wife speaks on my behalf, listen to her with respect. If anyone else claims to be speaking on my behalf, tell them from me that they can go and fuck themselves.
I'm aware that, this being just a blog post, it doesn't have as much legal standing as a proper living will. But it carries more weight than the opinions of everyone else, because this is my opinion, and I am the only person on Earth with the right to choose my suicide.