LETTER- Virtue means caring for sick

Barbara Rich advocated euthanasia as a means of helping senile elderly people [July 13 essay: "Terminal? More than breath required for life"].

Arguing that being "alive" is limited to those who are "aware" or "able to fully respond to the everyday joys and sorrows of life" is unnecessarily cruel.

It's true that "cognitive powers of memory and reason" are profoundly human traits that make life special, but just because they are weak should not imply that all such people lack an "essential meaning." Our consciences should tell us that killing such people, even with good intentions, is a bad thing.

Ancients like Aristotle, and Medievals like Aquinas advised the pursuit of virtue before seeking the other definitions of a "quality" ("prosperous?" "comfortable?") life.

Certainly, we will not be always happy. Some may never really be. However, focusing on virtue and the essential goodness of all human beings involves dealing with the sick and needy in what may be difficult ways: feeding them, lifting them in and out of places, cleaning soiled clothing, talking and listening as best we can, and perhaps even living with them. We should never mistake difficult lives for lives that we could do better without.

It would be like taking the despairing Jaques' words for truth at the end of As You Like It: "Last scene of all,/That ends this strange eventful history,/Is second childishness and mere oblivion,/Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."

Just because it appears like a return to early childhood, life does not lose its meaning. Then we could just as quickly eliminate the unwanted infants, or even just cut all life off at an earlier, pleasanter stage.

Peter Daniels