I’ve not said a word about the Terry Schiavo situation. Frankly, I’m sick to death of hearing about it. And after reading Radley Balko’s take on it, I don’t really have much to say. Balko nailed the situation completely, as far as I’m concerned. He makes several points, all of which I agree with entirely.
1. Multiple courts have heard testimony from all sides and determined that Terry herself had clearly expressed her desire not to be kept alive if she was an invalid. In the absence of a living will, that is really the only determination that matters. I’ve been in this situation before with three loved ones. When my mother died, she had made very clear to all of us that she did not want to be kept alive on machines, period. When she went into a coma after suffering cardiac arrest in the hospital, she suffered enormous brain damage. The doctors told us they could keep her technically alive for as long as we wanted, basically. She’d be on a ventilator, she’d need a feeding tube, and she’d remain in a coma, but she’d be “alive”. The decision of what to do legally resided solely with my stepfather, but he wanted the whole family to make that decision and we did. We shut off the machines. She had made clear to all of us that she would want exactly that, and that is all that matters.
2. Congress is engaged in shameless grandstanding with their absurd efforts to intervene in a situation where they simply have no authority. Balko also correctly points out that this grandstanding is being done by the very people who advocate federalism and judicial restraint, yet here they are frantically trying to get the federal courts to intervene where they have no authority. The Supreme Court rightly refused to get involved.
3. It’s absurd that we don’t allow active euthanasia in cases like this. Allowing her to starve to death is the worst possible outcome. When my mother was comatose and we shut off the machines, the doctors had loaded up her IV with enough morphine that she was going to go quickly and painlessly. Balko hits the nail right on the head:
I know the answer. But it isn’t acceptable. The answer is that removing a feeding tube isn’t proactive. Whereas injecting someone with lethal, but merciful drugs is. That’s asinine. This poor woman has had her feeding tube removed three times, half starved to death twice, all because people who claim to care about her won’t let go of their own damned prejudices long enough to embrace her best interests. We need to seriously rethink our priorities, here. If we are going to let her die — and I’ll trust the opinion of the six courts that we should — starving her death is the worst way to do it.
God help anyone who gets a terminal illness in this country. If you do, and you’re unlucky enough to be someone for whom certain drugs the government has deemed “controlled” are the only remedy for your suffering, too bad. Die in pain. If you’re rendered incapacitated and want to end your pain quietly and peacefully, too bad then, too. Just lie there and suffer. Hope the end comes early.
4. You have to feel for the parents and family who want to keep her alive. But they are acting purely on emotion. You can understand their emotions, certainly, but that doesn’t mean the courts should act on those emotions. They have to act on the facts of the case, and at least 6 courts have now viewed that evidence and reached the same conclusion – that she is in a persistent vegitative state and will never recover, and that she had clearly expressed her desire not to be kept alive in such a circumstance.
As for the wingnuts on the religious right who have so feverishly exploited this situation to scare people, they just need to shut the hell up. If you want to take the position that as long as the parents are willing to take on the responsibility of her care, there’s no harm in allowing her to stay on the machines and therefore we should err on the side of life, fine. I don’t agree with that argument, but I think it’s reasonable. But if you’re one of the idiotic hucksters like Randall Terry, who had the audacity to claim yesterday that Terry cried out and said she wanted to live yesterday (naturally, without eyewitnesses or videotape of it), or like David Bass, who compares the judge in the case to Al Qaeda terrorists, then you just need to crawl back under your rock.
Update: And if you’re wondering what the motivation is for the Bush administration and the Republicans in Congress to grandstand on the issue, look no further than the leaked memo from Senate republicans:
Republican leaders believe their attention to the Terri Schiavo issue could pay dividends with Christian conservatives whose support they covet in the 2006 midterm elections, according to a GOP memo intended to be seen only by senators.
The one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators by party leaders, called the debate over Schiavo legislation “a great political issue” that would appeal to the party’s base, or core, supporters. The memo singled out Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who is up for re-election next year.