Monday, March 28, 2005
POLITICS AS USUAL: SCHIAVO CASE PART II
Rebel Without a Cause
Apologies for not responding. The Hipster was on vacation with the wifey for some much needed R and R.
So, I'll get right to it. A week later and I'm no more impressed or swayed by the arguments I've heard both in the media and on this here blog.
The bottom line is that many involved in the case of Terri Schiavo are getting involved, in my humble opinion, for all the wrong reasons.
You can't tell me that these people are truly worried about the "sanctity of life". I have noticed many times that those on the "pro-life" side have been stating that "we should always err on the side of life". Both President Bush and Governor Bush (and others) have been active on that message track and have been working with their fellow legislators to "save Terri".
But I guess it depends on the method of death.
Mercy killing? No (unless its your own). Death Penalty? Hell yeah!
When George W. Bush was Governor of Texas, he signed death warrants for 152 people. Only once did he allow for a clemency appeal.
In fact, he was lambasted in 1999 by former CNN talking head Tucker Carlson for mocking death row inmate Karla Faye Tucker (who was later executed):
"While driving back from the speech later that day, Bush mentions Karla Faye Tucker, a double murderer who was executed in Texas last year. In the weeks before the execution, Bush says, Bianca Jagger and a number of other protesters came to Austin to demand clemency for Tucker.
'Did you meet with any of them?' I ask. Bush whips around and stares at me. 'No, I didn't meet with any of them,' he snaps, as though I've just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed. 'I didn't meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched his interview with [Tucker], though. He asked her real difficult questions, like 'What would you say to Governor Bush?' 'What was her answer?' I wonder.
'Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, 'don't kill me.'"
Dubya also enshrined the "right to die" into Texas law, with the Advance Directives Act. This law, only one of three in the U.S., "allows a hospital under certain circumstances to end life-prolonging measures even against a living will or the will of the patient's family".
His borther, Governor Jeb Bush, has signed 15 death warrants since he has been Governor of Florida. 5 of those have been deemed to be mentally ill--but he signed their warrants anyway.
Jeb Bush has actively supported the death penalty in the sunshine state (even accusing his 1994 Gubernatorial opponent of not using the death penalty enough) even though a number of his death warrants have been overturned.
U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a leading player in the campaign to "Save Terri" fought (with his family) against doctors hooking his own father up to machines to keep him alive. According to the Globe: "Like Ms. Schiavo, Charles DeLay had no living will, but he had reportedly expressed to others his wish not to be kept alive by artificial means."
So much for "erring on the side of life".
Now, don't get me wrong--I'm in favour of the death penalty. I'm just not in favour of hypocrisy. You can't choose to "protect the sanctity" of some lives, and not others.
Now with regard to the decisions of the courts, I don't disagree with CH reader Andrew that it is a cause for some concern. But if you look at the half-assed, ad-hoc way Congress and other legislative bodies have handled this issue, you can see why the courts acted the way they did.
In the case of Congress, during an "emergency session" the bill to transfer a state case to a federal court passed--with 174 Representatives absent!
If this issue is SO important (and pardon me for being cynical about hundreds of protesters, activists and politicians magically showing up to "fight" for a cause that has been going on for 10 years), then it should be thoughtfully and thoroughly debated and a policy should be adopted.
Actually, ABC News has the details of a "talking points" memo that has circulated to GOP operatives calling the situation "a great political issue".
This kind of policy should NOT be decided on the fly in front of cameras while a family is torn apart by a very personal decision.
I think as much as everyone is saying we shouldn't assume that Terri wants to die, we should equally not assume that she DOESN'T. It is possible, maybe even probable. Look at this column that appeared in the Globe on Saturday from bioethicist Lynda MacDonald Glenn:
"I lost my first husband, Jack MacDonald, to cancer in 1984. He died after a long struggle that led ultimately to the question of whether to insert a feeding tube to prolong his life. Jack's chemotherapy had caused nausea, mouth sores, and esophageal ulcers and his oncologist had ordered a feeding tube. As I sat by Jack's bedside while the surgeon discussed the procedure, my husband start to cry. "Please no more . . . let me go," he pleaded.
Stunned, I didn't know what to say. Jack took my hand, grasped it and repeatedly said, "Please no feeding tubes, no more tubes . . . no more." He paused, rested a moment, then smiled (as if he knew what I was thinking) and said, "And if you wait until I'm unconscious to put one in, I swear I will come back after I've died and haunt you for doing that." I cried and laughed at the same time and promised I would never do that to him.
I loved Jack and I did not want to let him go, but I did not want to see him suffer any more. Jack had realized the fight was over long before I did; he tried to reassure me that he wasn't frightened and that he wasn't in any pain, and I shouldn't worry. Ultimately, I honoured his wishes; but it was, without a doubt, one of the most difficult decisions of my life. A few weeks later, Jack slipped into unconsciousness and died quietly, peacefully, on Feb. 8, 1984, at 6:33 p.m."
I know, I know. She knew his wishes. I agree--this wouldn't be an issue if Terri Schiavo had a living will. My point is, how do we know she isn't suffering and wants out of this life?
Who are we, as outside observers, to tell Terri she must live on, for who knows how long, in her current state (vegetative or otherwise). Are you telling me keeping her alive via a feeding tube is "natural"? She should have died in 1990 when brain damage allowed her to eat and drink on her own.
As I have stated before--we should all but out and let the family deal with this issue on their own. If the lawmakers in the U.S. want to change the laws (although I beleive in the right to die with dignity), then do so.
But for the right reasons. Not like this.
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