Monday, March 21, 2005

Life, or Something Like It

So, it looks like Terri Schiavo will live to see at least another week. She can now live the dream of being in a "persistent vegetative state" for maybe 10, or 20, or 30, or more years on top of the 15 she already has under her belt. Excellent. Yes, this is what many people are actually happy about today, ecstatic even. They are breathlessly talking about their "respect for life" and praise God that they got to "choose life", and congratulating themselves on a job well done. I just hope for Terri's sake that this is what she wanted, but judging by what most people feel about being in her state, it seems unlikely.

That being said, I can certainly see why the case got to this point, and there are significant issues that are raised. They just have little to do the reasons that those that want her to keep living in her condition are citing. There was no written wish to not be kept alive in her current state. The law does not require this however, contrary to common belief. If it did, the case would have been long since resolved in favor of the parents. This should be addressed, and this is certainly a point worthy of debate. Also worthy of debate is the issue of whether feeding tubes are a part of a right to die case, and what category that puts people in.

This article shows what Republicans are thinking in the bigger political picture. Keep playing to that base, it looks like they are saying behind the scenes. They are probably right, and most Democrats are wisely steering clear of a showdown, though many I'm sure harbor the same misgivings about the reasoning and precedent that I do. With the political scene dominated by raw emotion these days, people have little use for objective examination.

Doug Bandow, of the Cato Institute, elaborates on that, and had this to say: "Republican grandstanding. Without doubt, many Republican politicians believe that an injustice has been done to Terri and her family. Yet they are not above using the issue for political advantage. A memo distributed to Republican senators characterised the case as "a great political issue", especially useful in winning support from conservative Christians. It "is a tough issue for Democrats", exulted the memo writer. Ironically, while governor of Texas, Bush signed into law a bill allowing hospitals to end life support if the patient had no means to pay for further care, and further care was thought to be futile."

That last bit floored me. I looked it up, and it's true! In 1999, Bush signed a law in Texas that said that there are circumstances where the hospitals get to decide what happens to people in states similar to Terri's. Sure, this law may have been created with life support patients in mind, but as the religious right always says "Shouldn't we err on the side of life?" Funny how that works.

Bandow further talks of the next set of issues that will come up: "What will federal judges do? Lawsuits have ranged up and down Florida courts for years. The federal fight could be equally bitter. Terri's parents will seek to reinsert the feeding tube until the case is decided. Michael will push to void the law as unconstitutional. If the court sustains the law, it is likely to hold a hearing on her parents' claim that removing the feeding tube violates her rights. The losing party then will inevitably appeal, as in Florida."

This won't be over for a long time. I just hope like hell that those that are so sure that she would want to live are right, and that she is the exception when it comes to what people want for themselves. Otherwise, you've just sentenced this woman to decades of suffering, or at least a hazy stupor from which there is no escape. A fate worse than death? I fear so.


Imara said...

Great post Erik. I couldn't agree with you more in that I, too, hope that what Terri's parents wish are for her, are in fact her wishes. Although, I just find it hard to believe it to be the case.

Erik Grow said...

Thank you! You are my first commenter, and it's certainly appreciated. We'll see how that situation plays out. It's crazy.

Imara said...

I'm honored to be the first!

What do you think of the Judge's ruling this morning? I heard that the family is in the process of appealing the decision. I understand that they don't want to let their daughter/sister go, but at some point you have to start to question their motives... everyone is busy questioning the husband's.

Erik Grow said...

I think with them it's more based on delusion. In the same way that parents don't believe that someone in their own family can murder, they think that maybe Terri can somehow get better. It's sad. I don't think she should be saved simply so she can aid in their delusions, in a twilight zone, for decades.