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A Day in the Life of Ivan Illich

We haven't mentioned the Terri Schiavo case, primarily because many other worthy bloggers are doing a fine job covering it. We will say, however, that the whole affair reminds us of the central tenets of Ivan Illich's criticism of the health care industry thirty years ago.

Illich said health is the capacity to cope with the human reality of death, pain and sickness. His paradoxcial opening words of Medical Nemesis in the mid-1970s still jolt, "The medical establishment has become a major threat to health." His basic point is that technology can help our bodies, but modern medicine goes to far. It has launched into a god-like battle to eradicate death, pain and sickness and, in doing so, it has turned people into consumers or objects, destroying their capacity for health.

We wonder what Illich would say about Schiavo's case. Has she been turned into an object that is costing her husband too much? Is the pro-death's inability to deal with pain prompting them to push for an easy solution? We're not qualified to comment, but the whole thing has prompted us to re-consider the odd phenomenon that was Ivan Illich.

For an extensive essay about Illich, we'd suggest this one.