A longstanding contention of 'right to life' activists is that a quality of life ethic in end-of-life decisionmaking undermines a sanctity of life ethic. A surrogate decision to reject life-sustaining medical intervention -- as in the case of a permanently unconscious patient -- supposedly delivers a symbolic message contravening the intrinsic value of all human life. This paper argues that quality of life judgments are the only way to avoid transforming human beings into prisoners of medical technology. Under appropriate standards and review, caregivers must be able to end artificial intervention rather than keep pumping fluids and gases into moribund, floundering patients.

Date of this Version

April 2005