IRAC is not coming naturally to me. (By the way, did y'all know that IRAC is a relatively recent development in legal education? Someone asked a lawyer at a lunch presentation about whether she used IRAC in her real world practice, and she didn't know what he was talking about.) I blame it on bioethics training, where after identifying the competing principles involved, we tended to analyze a situation through casuistry, triangulating from previous cases to work out our preferred solution to the dilemma. This seems similar to precedential thinking, except that one has to write for law school with the rule first, the specific situation second, and this muddles me.
I think part of the trouble is that IRAC feels unnatural and falsely assured. I didn't start with a rule already in place, so I want to walk my reader through my own analysis, how I managed to pull a rule out of a series of cases. Of course, the difference between law and ethics is that in the former, the courts already have declared rules based on cases. They may modify, narrow and even reverse these rules, but they have them, whereas ethicists have to limp around with principles and intuitions.
Which is all preface to the intended point of this post: At which point does the general public stop worrying about a life? In Houston there is a baby nearly five months old who probably will be taken off his ventilator soon, against his mother's wishes. He has a fatal condition that eventually will cause him to suffocate, and is kept sedated for comfort. No one except his mother -- who named him Sun and whose mental health has been questioned by the hospital caring for her son -- thinks he ought to stay on the ventilator until his lungs become incapable of sustaining his body. Even a Jesuit priest and ethicist says "To insist the child had to endure this and the hospital had to provide treatment that made no medical or physical sense would have been a tremendously awful thing."
I happen to agree with those who find indefinite life-sustaining measures for someone incapable of requesting them and whose condition cannot be improved to be morally suspect. But that rule would seem to encompass the case of Terry Schiavo, and Ms. Schiavo has many people very vigorously lobbying for her life to be sustained. For Ms. Schiavo, there is terrisfight.org to reverse legal judgments; for Sun, there is a hospital duly paying his mother's legal fees to ensure due process before they turn off the machines.