On today, the day of Terri Schiavo’s death, it’s fitting that I came across “Live Everlasting,” a fantastic essay by Garret Keizer in Harpers. It’s one of the best statements I’ve read about the interplay of medical and social norms about the prolongation of life at all costs, and highlights a lot of the contradictions made by those who wish to take decisions of life from individuals and invest them in some higher authority. There are precious few pullquotes that do the length and depth of the essay justice, but perhaps this is enough to tempt you to dive in:

From that exalted vantage point, consider Dr. Thompson’s cavalier disregard for human life. He may have hastened his patient’s death by as much as five minutes. Let’s be as reckless as he was and say five hours. But should you perchance check a mortality table, you will discover that life expectancy at birth is roughly five years shorter for an African-American baby than for a white baby. This is true for both genders. In the interests of brevity we will not go into the life expectancies of Creoles born downstream from Louisiana power plants or Pacific Islanders born on former nuclear test sites or country kids born in the back hollows of Dr. Thompson’s practice.