What makes one life worth more than ten thousand others?

What makes one life worth more than ten thousand others?

Why does the life of a human vegetable get more attention than the hundreds of thousands in Darfur or the millions in Africa dying of aids?

  1. #1 by Marc Vandersluys on March 31, 2005 - 11:17 pm

    Or, conversely, what makes one life less important than any other?

    Not everyone who had something to say about Terri Shiavo was on a hobby-horse. I, for one, simply noted what I believe was an injustice. That doesn’t mean I feel less strongly about caring for those infected with HIV/AIDS, or ending genocide, or caring for the poor.

  2. #2 by becky on April 1, 2005 - 12:32 am

    Marc, look at the coverage and tell me how this is fair. Most people back home in the US were more educated about the genocide in Rwanda by seeing a Hollywoodized film of it, rather than watching news reports.

    This is nothing but a political hobby horse for a false notion of a “culture of life” that is only applicable when it’s convenient for the politicians to say so.

    And that’s not fair to Terri or her memory.

  3. #3 by Dave King on April 1, 2005 - 7:45 am

    I’m guessing that it has a lot to do with the fact that it’s happening here, and one person in one situation resonates much easier than a big messy situation.

    We could also ask why the pope is more important than all the people in Darfur.

    I think we loose something if it becomes is a numbers game. But yeah it’s pretty unbalanced at the moment.

    – Peace


  4. #4 by Marc on April 1, 2005 - 9:04 am

    Hmmmm…I’m not saying the coverage isn’t terribly unbalanced.

    Perhaps LT was mainly referring to the news coverage of the issue, but I guess I take comments like this a little personally because I did mention Terri on my blog a couple of times. Does this mean that I don’t care about those in dying of AIDS or those affected by genocide? No. It’s just that this is what I saw in the last little while, and it bothered me.

    Do I think the media needs to cover Africa, Darfur, India, etc. much more than they do? Yes. Do I think this should have been ignored? No.

  5. #5 by LT on April 1, 2005 - 9:19 am


    I hadn’t looked at your blog for the last couple of days before I made this post. I was talking about news coverage and some American blogs.

  6. #6 by Marc on April 1, 2005 - 9:59 am

    I more or less figured as much–I guess I get a little paranoid sometimes.

  7. #7 by little bear on April 1, 2005 - 6:04 pm

    Everybody wants everybody to live forever, but people die. Everyone wants to prolong life past it’s due date. Did anyone to stop to think that prolonging a life with machines and chemicals is “playing god” just as much as unplugging those very machines?

  8. #8 by Marc on April 1, 2005 - 6:38 pm

    Little Bear: I considered it, and I agree with you. It’s just that this wasn’t the case with Terri–as I understand it, there were no “machines” and “chemicals” involved, at least not in the sense you have in mind. She simply needed help with feeding. She died of starvation/dehydration, which is a good indication that her life was not past its due date.

  9. #9 by Arthur on April 1, 2005 - 9:50 pm


    Because the media only tells the stories they want you to hear…usually the ones that will sell the most papers and get the highest ratings.

    Because most people are ignorant of the happenings in far away places…and happy to remain so.

    Because people have nothing better to do with their time than pick a hobby horse and ride it to death. (No pun intended.)

    Because people are like sheep (the Bible says so)and won’t take the time to apprise themselves of all the facts before forming an opinion, which they will then broadcast to anyone who will listen, no matter how ill-informed or ill-advised.

    Sometimes I despair when I consider the human race. God love us!

  10. #10 by little bear on April 2, 2005 - 9:14 am

    I learned alot at my house group on this subject that I didn’t previously know about this case, and it’s changed my perspective dramatically. I’m figuring out that the reason that this case is getting an inordinate amount of attention is because it’s being used to set precedents for future cases like it, also, that the husband’s motives are extremely suspect, and what marc said was true, she wasn’t dying, she only needed help.

    I will agree with arthur. He calls them sheep, I call them lemmings, but when I heard that the stupid humans were getting arrested trying to break in and bring food and water to terri, all I could think was “you idiot. If she could eat food, she wouldn’t need that tube to begin with.”

    Society is declining at an exponential rate, so I guess nothing really shocks or upsets me anymore, because I know things are gonna get bad, and that’s what has to happen, and getting upset about it isn’t going to somehow stop it.

  11. #11 by Arthur on April 3, 2005 - 12:12 pm

    Marc: I disagree with you in one respect. You say that because Terri only needed help with feeding, it is an indication her life was not past its due date.

    I believe her life was w-a-a-y past its due date and she was only being prevented from going to her reward by today’s technological advances. No one gets out of this world alive. Why prolong the inevitable when there is no hope of recovery?

    Keeping someone alive on machinery, chemicals or feeding them through a tube because they cannot survive any other way IS playing God, in my opinion.

    Why do people do this? Is it because of our vanity, or our inflated ideas of our own importance? Is Western culture so afraid of the consequences of our actions on this earth that we do not want to face them in the hereafter? I thought that the majority no longer believe that there IS a hereafter? Or is that another myth perpetuated by the media?

  12. #12 by Marc on April 3, 2005 - 12:28 pm

    I understand where you’re coming from. I’ve calmed down considerably about this.

    But I think we’ll have to agree to disagree, because I’m still convinced that two weeks of living and breathing on her own, culminating in death by starvation/dehydration is proof enough that she was not past due.

    I’m not sure what particular worldview you hold to, but from my perspective we are called to care for those in need and for the dying. This woman wasn’t dying–she wasn’t on life support–,she needed care. That’s why I think we do this. But that’s just my two cents.

    I think we could argue in circles for hours. Perhaps I should keep my mouth shut about it from now on, because it’s too late anyway.

  13. #13 by beck on April 4, 2005 - 12:13 am

    Sorry, I have to say this. She wasn’t a “human vegetable”. She was a human being… maybe or maybe not IN a vegetative state (depends who you ask.) I read somewhere one of her husband’s lawyers likened her to a houseplant… that disturbs me I guess. Calling a person anything but… a person. I wonder what God would have called her… I wonder where her soul was… was she gone from her body already? If she was still there I wonder if she wanted to go or stay… I wonder if she felt the pain of starvation… I don’t wonder whether she was a carrot or a fern. I know, I know… quibling over semantics. Sorry.

  14. #14 by Michael on April 4, 2005 - 2:09 am

    Though I believe that what happened to Terry Schiavo was a horrifically cruel act, akin to being tortured to death, I do agree that we tend to ignore major events on distant shores and focus too much on local matters.

    In the UK, among journalists there is an equation that goes something like:

    100,000 Chinese dead in Earthquake = 200 dead in plane crash in France = Couple hurt in car accident on M25 (Ring road around London)

    Basically, local stories ALWAYS win.

  15. #15 by Jordon on April 4, 2005 - 8:44 am

    I agree with your point, if not the wording. She is a human being. As far as the media goes. It is about us. We don’t care or watch stories about Darfur or Africa and we do watch and get upset when it is something local.

  16. #16 by John Dekker on April 4, 2005 - 11:44 pm

    Just by calling here a vegetable, you’ve nailed your colours to the mast. I was struck while watching ‘Hotel Rwanda’ by how the Tutsis were called ‘cockroaches’. In much the same way, the Nazis called Jews ‘vermin’. What these have in common is that in order to kill someone, you often have to pretend that they are not human. In the military they talk about ‘The Enemy’, they don’t like talking about Abdul or Tuan or Gunther.

    I fear you’ve gone the same way here – you’ve de-humanised Terri Schiavo, and that makes it easier for you to think that her death was legitimate…

  17. #17 by LT on April 5, 2005 - 6:47 am

    John Dekker:

    Where did I say her death was legitimate?

  18. #18 by Jacob on April 5, 2005 - 7:38 pm

    Of course you’ll take the stand you have. You have to – you are an emerger…they always take the opposite side of evangelicalism.

  19. #19 by LT on April 5, 2005 - 7:53 pm


    What stand is that? I’m afraid that your view of things is far more simplistic than it really is.

  20. #20 by Jacob on April 6, 2005 - 9:13 am

    The stand of getting on board with the greater evangelical community in trying to save Terri’s life.

  21. #21 by Leighton Tebay on April 6, 2005 - 9:32 am


    I’m more concerned about the genocide in Darfur. It is a question of priorties. That is the point of this post.

  22. #22 by Paul Johnston on April 9, 2005 - 7:24 am

    Sorry, Leighton but I believe that labelling someone as a human vegetable, is innappropriate and unkind. I’m sure that isn’t how she was viewed by the God who made her and by those who loved her. You would have done better to refer to Terry by her name. A persistent vegatative state may or may not have been her condition but it wasn’t who she was.

    As for some of the other issues raised by your post and the comments, I have this to say.

    In a democracy,governments are meant to intervene on behalf of their people,particularly when some perceive that justice is being denied. I think it is fair to argue the merit of and means by which governments react to a particular situation, but not that they do. Politicians are accessable,affordable and if we make the effort, accountable. Not so with our courts.

    As for the great human tragedies of Africa, how do we in the west begin to honestly deal with the suffering when its root is poverty. Poverty of mind, poverty of body, poverty of soul. Theirs and ours. We who have everything, everything to give, yet give so little.

    When we look at Africa we see our shame. Better if we look somewhere else.

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