Tyler Cowen and Trent McBride both argue against Landsburg on essentially anti-utilitarian grounds, saying this is just the kind of case where weighing of preferences is not the right approach. Says Cowen:
Nor do I think that family decisions -- whatever your view in the Schiavo case -- should be decided by a real or hypothetical societal auction. If there is any "protected sphere" for human decision-making, surely it is here. The problem is that we don't agree on how to define the guardian of the sphere -- is it "Terry" or "husband as guardian of a no-longer-living Terry"?Tyler’s point is sensible, but I think a counterargument to Landsburg can be made on utilitarian grounds as well. The reason is that a person’s happiness does not depend solely on current enjoyments (in philosopherese, instantaneous hedonic utility). It also depends on memories and anticipations. Anticipations are particularly important here. My current happiness is affected by what I think will happen in my future. Imagining a long and productive life enhances my current sense of well-being; imagining myself a quadriplegic diminishes it. Imagining my final years being spent hooked to machines, even without consciousness or pain, also diminishes my present happiness. Legal rules that eliminate or reduce that possibility of an undesirable death can therefore enhance your happiness during your life.
Lest we underestimate the importance of anticipatory utility, note that having our wishes about the fate of our bodies respected is one of the main reasons people get married. It’s among the leading arguments made by gay couples who want legal recognition of their unions: they want to put someone they love and trust in charge of their remains (whether those remains are dead, living but unconscious, or somewhere in between as in Schiavo’s case). The very same argument provides the justification for respecting a dead person’s expressed wish to be buried on hallowed ground, or to be cremated and have his ashes strewn over the Pacific: the likelihood that the wish will be respected gives some satisfaction or tranquility to the deceased before they die.
Once you’re dead (or approximately dead like Schiavo), of course, you don’t care. But fulfilling the wishes of the dead (or approximately dead) creates a precedent that affects the expectations – and thus the happiness – of the living.