A Libertarian Analysis of the Rights of Brain-Dead People

Praise for this article of mine:

Block, Walter E. 2011. “Terri Schiavo: A Libertarian Analysis” Journal of Libertarian Studies; Vol. 22, pp. 527–536;http://mises.org/journals/jls/22_1/22_1_26.pdfhttp://mises.org/sites/default/files/22_1_26.pdf; Block, Walter E. 2011. “Terri Schiavo: A Libertarian Analysis” Journal of Libertarian Studies; Vol. 22, pp. 527–536; http://mises.org/journals/jls/22_1/22_1_26.pdf;http://libertycrier.com/walter-block-terri-schiavo/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LibertyCrier+%28Liberty+Crier%29;http://mises.org/sites/default/files/22_1_26.pdf

And for this recent blog of mine: https://www.lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/can-you-murder-a-brain-dead-person-yes/

Hi, Walter, I hope you are well.

I believe your argument is correct in the post on Lew Rockwell concerning the killing of a brain-dead person and the recommended article on Terri Schiavo.

I addressed this in my own way during a conversation with Michael Rozeff a few months back after he posted an article on abortion at Lew Rockwell. I wrote this rebuttaland sent it to him. In response, he wrote a correction and included a link to my article, which included the following paragraph.

“…when a person becomes old or disabled and cannot survive without care, nurture, and a protective environment, does she, according to Rozeff’s argument, lose her so-called right of being and risk being “aborted”. Did Terri Schiavo become a non-being and were all the lengthy machinations over her life and death simply much ado about nothing? Or did they really matter?”

During a subsequent, brief e-mail exchange with Michael, I sent him this thought. I think it follows your line of reasoning quite closely.

“Concerning a situation like Terri Schiavo. It appears to me that the argument over her boils down to one question. Who owned her? In the end, the court decided that her husband, not her parents, held that ownership. Maybe control is the better word, since I tend to think that, in most cases, control is better than ownership.

My thinking on this case has evolved over the years and has basically come down to this. No one owned Terri Schiavo, therefore, no one had the right or moral authority to end her life, whether she could or could not agree. Certainly, her husband had some legal claim which her parents did not, but this alone isn’t enough to give him the power to make that decision.

In my view, the critical question should have been who would pay to maintain the status quo, and thereby determine control (ownership). Understanding this as I do today, if I had been the judge in this case, I would have asked the parents if they were willing to personally shoulder the burden of cost, either by themselves or with the voluntary contribution of others. If they were, I would have found in their favor. If they weren’t, I would have told them to withdraw their petition. If, at some point, they failed to do so, I would have found them in contempt, ordered the ruling vacated, and told the husband to go ahead. Pure and simple.

Who is going to pay? Is that payment voluntary or not? In the ownership/property discussion, these are questions which should be asked and would go a long way to answer dilemmas like this.”

After reading your article concerning Terri Schiavo, I have changed my thinking slightly. Once the parents received control and the husband was told to “bow out”, I would not give the situation back to him if the parents reneged. Instead, I would go to the person(s) next in line until I found someone who was willing and able to pick up the burden.

Walter, you are causing me to think. For that, I thank you. R

Dear R: I’d write this Austro-libertarian stuff even if I were on a desert island with no chance of anyone ever reading it. So much to I want to “get this out of me.” However, I’m deighted that this article of mine did you some good. Thanks for your kind words.


3:48 pm on March 29, 2019