Reading the dissent in today’s Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on the Schiavo case, I think I found the words to explain what’s so offensive to me about the actions of Congress and Schiavo’s parents to date. The following quote, from the dissenting judge’s reasoning on why a preliminary injunction forcing the resumption of feeds would be approriate, is what gave me focus (emphasis mine):

In fact, I fail to see any harm in reinstating the feeding tube. On the other hand, a denial of the request for injunction will result in the death of Theresa Schiavo.

The Florida courts went through an excruciatingly detailed process to determine what Terri Schiavo herself would have felt was harmful, and ruled that there is clear and convincing evidence that she would feel it harmful to be artificallly supported in any manner. And as a result, replacing her feeding tube would be the very definition of harmful, for the very reason that it would prolong her life. I guess what I wonder is if the presence of a living will specifically forbidding the continuation of artificial sustenance would have changed the dissenting judge’s opinion on the harm of replacing the tube. Put another way: can the judge truly ignore what has been determined to be Schiavo’s ideas of benefit and harm and then substitute his own in order to decide how to proceed?

Extended more broadly, that’s exactly what all the supporters of the Congressional bill did — used their own views (or, says the skeptical side of me, the views of the various groups that support them) about good and bad, benefit and harm, moral and immoral, and then imposed those views on Terri Schiavo and the country. In the end, that idea that the views of someone other than me matter at all when I’m hooked up to life-sustaining equipment is what’s so frightening.