"Imagine, for example, that the Schindlers had agreed with Michael Schiavo that Terri's time had come, that she would never have wanted to live like this, that the feeding tube keeping her alive needed to come out. Chances are, there would have been no federal case, no national story, no political controversy. Terri Schiavo would have been buried long ago, mourned by the family that decided on her behalf that death was preferable to life in her incapacitated state. Under law, such an outcome would have been unproblematic and uneventful, so long as no one had claimed that Terri Schiavo's previous wishes were being violated. But morally, the deepest problem would remain: What do we owe those who are not dead or dying but profoundly disabled and permanently dependent? And even if such individuals made their desires clearly known while they were still competent, is it always right to follow their instructions--to be the executors of their living wills--even if it means being their willing executioners?This is the fundamental difference: if you are religious, you tend to think of life as a gift and the dignity of that life is not dependent on you ability to exert your individual will, it is dependent on the will of God.
For some, it is an article of faith that individuals should decide for themselves how to be cared for in such cases. And no doubt one response to the Schiavo case will be a renewed call for living wills and advance directives--as if the tragedy here were that Michael Schiavo did not have written proof of Terri's desires. But the real lesson of the Schiavo case is not that we all need living wills; it is that our dignity does not reside in our will alone, and that it is foolish to believe that the competent person I am now can establish, in advance, how I should be cared for if I become incapacitated and incompetent. The real lesson is that we are not mere creatures of the will: We still possess dignity and rights even when our capacity to make free choices is gone; and we do not possess the right to demand that others treat us as less worthy of care than we really are."
If you are secular, then God's will does not exist. What else is there but the will of the individual to give the individual life meaning. So when the will of the individual is compromised, so is the dignity of the life.
That's why the Schiavo case is related to abortion and euthanasia and the great moral debates of our age, because it is rooted in our worldview of what gives dignity to humanity: God's will or human will?
In abortion, the will of the mother trumps the will of the fetus. In Euthanasia the will of the individual to end their own life trumps the will of God to say that life should be preserved even if it means suffering. In the more sinister possibilities of Euthanasia the will of the surviving "loved ones" or "society" trumps the will of the individual being killed if the individual can no longer express their "dignity" in a way that satisfies those left with the power to decide life or death.
I think this suicide is the modern emblem of secular dignity in death as Earnest Hemingway's suicide was a forerunner. Now Terri Schiavo's death is "peaceful" and "beautiful" because someone decided to kill her, because she decided that she would want to be killed (or so they say).
It is troubling to me that in my own heart I want the right to disregard whatever God's will may be to make my own decisions. This is where all of us start in relation to God. The reality is that my decisions invariably skew selfish, and hurt others. That is why guidance from the Bible about God's will has become so important to me to keep me from selfishly hurting others.
Secular people and skeptics say that the Bible can't be trusted to let us know the will of God and only fools would submit their will to the illusory will of religious God.
Terri Schiavo is dead. From where I sit those who believe the Bible are doing a better job fighting for others lives than the secular. It seems that even the secular are beginning to agree.