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« I'm This Many! | Main | And a Woman Shall Lead Them »

March 19, 2005

Schiavo Saga

I wasn't going to jump into the debate of Terri Schiavo, but - oh - what the hell, why not?

Here's my take:

If her brain damage has resulted in her being forever incapable of having a rich inner life, that ability to converse internally and appreciate the now and remember and dream that seems to make us distinctly human, then there is nothing immoral in ending her life now.

If she is capable of having "a life," as opposed to simply "being alive," then to end her life would be immoral.

That said, if the goal is to end unnecessary suffering, then to allow her to starve to death strikes me as immoral. If the decision is that her "life" is over, and that she is merely "alive," then there's no rational reason not to actively move to end her biological life through lethal injection or the like.

I see plenty of religious people, usually right-leaning Christians, around the blogosphere who are claiming that only God has the right to take a life. First, if that is the case, then allowing her to starve is allowing the natural course of events to be fulfilled - in effect, God is taking that life. Second, if only God can be the one to take a life, then everytime we provide medical care to anyone, we are actively interfering in God's efforts at taking that person. Of course, consistency of thought isn't the hallmark of the Bible or Christianity in general.

So, what do we have?

Either Mrs. Schiavo is simply alive, or she is both alive and capable of "having a life." That should inform our decision of the most moral course of action.

Update: Peggy Noonan, apparently wanting to demonstrate that she has no shame, reminds the Republicans that this is about politics.

Update 2: In the comments I'm informed that Radley Balko says similar things... and more.

Update 3: Apparently the Republican leadership has no shame either:

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.


Update 4: Terri Schiavo's mother apparently doesn't watch the news much.

"There are some congressmen that are trying to stop this bill," she said outside her daughter's hospice. "Please don't use my daughter's suffering for your own personal agenda."
Sorry, but - as indicated above - that's exactly what the Republicans are doing. For some of them, clearly, this isn't about life, isn't about Terri, and isn't about right and wrong; it's about votes.

From the same article comes the story of a glory hound brave, brave token protest:

Guabe Garcia Jones, an attorney from Washington, said he's been on a hunger strike since the tube was pulled Friday, only drinking water for the roughly two days he has spent in a tent outside the hospice.

"I'm not going to eat until she can eat - or I break down," said Jones, 26.

That's right - he'll stand right beside her until the very end. Or until he gets really fucking hungry. Whichever comes first.

Soldier on, good man, soldier on.

Update 5: AgingWithDignity.Org has a downloadable living will form called "Five Wishes." It costs $5.00 if you're interested (and live in one of the 36 states where it is considered a valid living will).

Update 6: It looks now as if the Republican memo may have been a Democratic dirty trick. Peggy Noonan, however, still has no shame.

Posted by Andy at 03:52 PM