I came across this story on cnn.com today. Similar in many aspects to the Terri Schiavo case, it got me to thinking - again - about what we mean when we talk about "quality of life." Cases like these, I'm sure, have opened up a dialogue for the rest of us and, therefore, we may be more aware of how to make our wishes known in advance - God forbid the need for such wishes to be carried out - but spending years in a vegetative state and wasting away physically is not "living."
I understand, I truly do, the desire to preserve life, but at what cost? For those who would deny someone the chance to end their loved one's state of being, when said state of being requires the use of machinery just to keep their body functioning at a bare minimum, the argument just doesn't make sense. In regards to this case, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said, "I will do everything I can to save [Englaro's] life. We have to do everything possible to stop a person from dying." When it is clear that a patient will never recover, will never have any quality of life, will never be able to function apart from the very machines that make "life" possible, why must we prevent death? How, really, will death be any different from the "life" she had?
I'm certainly not advocating arbitrary euthanasia, neither am I disregarding that people have miraculously come out of years-long comatose states, but the rights of the patients and the patient's loved ones must be considered. Even in heavily-Catholic, anti-euthanasia Italy, a patient can refuse treatment. Neither Terri Schiavo nor Eluana Englaro was ever going to be able to refuse treatment and others had to speak for them.
We must listen.