Sunday, March 20, 2005

The Amplified Golden Rule

I remember something a Pastor friend of mine would always say:
It's not just 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' Instead it's 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you if you were them.'

Now, if we forget for a second that there is a strange you/them/others construction there that may not be entirely grammatically correct - we can look at what this really means. Here's an example of this idea:
I'm a big hugger. I'm always giving someone if I were to follow the golden rule in its pure form, I would hug everyone all the time because that would be what I would want done to me. However, some people don't always want hugs. Maybe they are worried about getting sick, or maybe just want to shake hands. This way, when the above addendum is considered, I can treat people with more respect by thinking about what they would want and not just what I would want in their position.

Jeff at Digital Brown Pajamas makes a similar point regarding Terri Schiavo (via WhatAttitudeProblem):
I think the reason so many people are for "letting her go" is precisely because they are unable to truly put themselves in her shoes. They assume that because "I wouldn't want to live that way" that Terri doesn't either. They assume that there is only one "quality of life" that is worth living, and Terri's can't possibly be worth it. It is the height of arrogance to assume that your "quality of life" judgment is better than Terri's. Isn't it quite possible that to Terry living is better than dying?

It's not just being arrogant, it's being self-centered.

Jeff makes an additional good point about what it really means to have a feeding tube:
In Terri's case, however, we are not simply turning off a respirator attached to a brain-dead patient. I would have no objection if we had been artificially keeping her alive all this time. But Terry is being kept alive in the same manner that you or I are kept alive, by feeding and sheltering.

A feeding tube is not a respirator. People who can talk and function in a lot of other ways getting feeding tubs. Stroke victims who can have conversations and write clearly but have no gag reflex cannot eat in a normal way and are thus relegated to a feeding tube. If we removed it from a person like that, they would starve to death. The only difference between that sort of stroke victim and Terri Schiavo is that he would be able to verbalize his desire no to starve to death, while Terri cannot.