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Punting On Justice

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For personal reasons, I have been thinking a lot about end of life issues of late.  It is an extraordinary thing how the law has evolved on this subject in recent decades.  As life spans have increased and medical technology advanced we find ourselves increasingly confronted with issues regarding the care of people no longer able to do so for themselves.  Many of whom are incapable of even expressing their desires anymore.  When a conflict arises amongst those that love such an individual, the resolution of the conflict can get quite thorny.

Of course, advanced directives and so forth are very helpful but they are not ultimate solutions because it is impossible to anticipate every situation.  They can resolve foreseen conflict, but there is always the unforeseen.

Right now, the way such cases are settled is for a court to decide who gets to make the decisions on behalf of the impaired individual.  But think about that for a minute – that reduces the question to one of custody, thus reducing the individual to chattel status.  Is that really the right way for the law to evolve in a nation that fought a civil war to free people from chattel status?  With Roe v Wade having decided that  decisions of this type are private matters, courts are precluded from deciding what is right or wrong so they have no choice but to decide whose private morality is to prevail.  Surely there is a better way.

Now look up “justice” in the dictionary:

the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness (emphasis added)

or in Merriam-Webster:

the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action (2) :  conformity to this principle or ideal :  righteousness

It would seem that in these situations our courts, those bodies that we have established for the purpose of maintaining justice, are not looking so much at questions of justice, that is to say righteousness as these definitions explain justice, as they are at political expediency – and in doing so they replicate perhaps the greatest injustice in our nations history.  “Ironic” somehow does not cover it.

I point this out mostly to point out that Roe v Wade is about far more than abortion.  It does away with the idea of a common moral principle.  Forget religion’s involvement in defining morality for a moment and consider that there simply is no common morality.  Can a nation survive under those circumstances?

A nation is far more than just its government and borders.  There must be some ethos that defines a nation or it will fall apart.  Government alone cannot hold it together.  Can we really afford to punt on justice?


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