The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

16 March 2005

It shouldn't happen to a dog

Terri Schiavo has forty-eight hours [link requires Adobe Reader] to go. Andrea Harris sums it up:

I'm not Catholic. And I think what they are planning to do to Terri Schiavo Friday is murder. There's not a thing wrong with that woman except that she has a damaged brain, so she can't sign checks and cook meals for her needy hubby. But by playing on the "ew, ick, a drooler" factor that comes to play when people see a brain-damaged person (and the shame people feel when they have that reaction) Mr. Schiavo with the collusion of my state's court system has made it so a perfectly innocent woman can be put to death in a way that would get a jail sentence and many shrieking denunciations of the perpetrator if it were done to a dog. But well, dogs can fetch, so they're more important than a brain-damaged woman. As for me, I'm hoping to get out of this state in a few years; Florida's not a healthy place to get sick in.

If that doesn't make you squirm, consider this:

Oh dear Providence: please grant that I never have a spouse who has such great concern for me, especially when I have other family members who are willing to look after me. The spouse (who, in giving orders prohibiting rehabilitation, coincidentally guarantees she never presses charge against him, indeed never speaks at all) claims preserving his wife's life is against her wishes while noting the financial burden of her continued care; the family pleads that where there is life there is hope, and that the costs do not matter, that somehow they will find a way.

Please consider, Dear Reader: Which would you prefer? Love like Terri's spouse, or love like that of her parents?

The actions of the spouse would appear to be in conflict with a loving spouse, but not in conflict with a malevolent one. But that is merely circumstantial evidence. He cannot be prosecuted for speculative malevolence for his ailing spouse.

But a justice system that was not detached from its obligations under the social contract would clearly see the potential conflict and mercifully take the ailing daughter from the custody of the spouse and put her in the care of her parents who will look over her without financial gain.

And one thing more bothers me. American liberals, who fancy themselves the protectors of the downtrodden, have been utterly silent on this matter. Can it be because they don't, even for a moment, want to appear on the same side of an issue as those hated "pro-life" people?

Posted at 9:02 AM to Life and/or Death


I hope with all my heart that my husband and the rest of my family would have hydration withheld from me if I am ever in a persistent vegetative state. God would allow me to die if medicine didn't intervene in such a situation. I don't know the details of TS's case and so don't pretend to know what is in her best interest. But I have seen people waste away in a shell of a body, contracted, struggling with bed sores, with no type of existence I would even allow my dog to suffer. It isn't murder to take away the sins inflicted by the medical profession on those who otherwise would die in peace. Like I said, this may not apply in TS's case, but I sure hope my family and the legal system would know it would apply to mine.

Posted by: OKPartisan at 6:24 PM on 16 March 2005

OKP, the way to do that is a living will. Lay it out in black and white and you won't have to hope.

Of course, if there were justice for Terri Schiavo the lack of a living will would keep her alive. I've about decided that everyone should have a living will either way, thanks to those damned Florida judges.

Posted by: McGehee at 8:11 PM on 16 March 2005

You know OKPartisan, this isn't about you.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 10:07 PM on 16 March 2005

I agree completely that everyone should have a living will, and that everyone should also speak to their families about their wishes. Same goes for organ donation.
Plenty of people don't have living wills, though, and their families are left to struggle with trying to decide what their loved ones would have wanted if they could speak for themselves. I have been with people who have had to make these decisions and it is a terrible struggle. As I said before, I don't know TS's situation, but there are plenty of cases in which the families struggle to come up with a decision they believe that their loved one would want, that God would approve of, and that they themselves can live with. Sometimes that decision is to let their loved one die. That, to me, is a loving a decision. So is the decision to continue artificially supporting life. Either way, I don't believe that government should step in and make the family feel any worse about their difficult decision, as long as the family truly feels it is acting with the patient's wishes and interests at heart and as long as the doctors caring for the patient agree that the prognosis is hopeless.

Posted by: OKPartisan at 11:19 PM on 16 March 2005

OKPartisan,

Feeding someone is not "artificially supporting life." That is the point. They are going to stop feeding her. They are going to starve her. If *you* stopped eating, you'd die, too; if someone kept food from you, you would die. How can anyone, let alone God, approve of starving someone to death, just because her life is not perfect?

And furthermore, no prognosis is perfect. You assume that she will never recover. Why do you err on the side of despair and death? How is it loving to say: "Your life sucks. I will kill you now" --?

Posted by: David Skinner at 2:04 PM on 17 March 2005

By the way, the only "family" that wants her dead is her loving husband, who won't divorce her even though he's been living with another woman for years and has two (I think) outside children by this other woman. Her parents and her brother are willing to take care of her. Hubby's basis (he says) for killing his wife is some vague statement she supposedly made while still not braindead about not wanting to live hooked up to machines or something. So, yeah, her "family" has made such a compassionate, difficult decision. My gluteus maximus.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 8:17 PM on 17 March 2005

Note that the feeding tube may be unnecessary! She might be able to eat and drink like you and me -- but her husband has refused to let anyone try to feed her.

Also note that he only remembered that she didn't want to live like that after the malpractice suit, where the money was given based on her living a natural life span.

Posted by: Mary at 9:55 PM on 17 March 2005

Can American liberals be siding with death for Terri because they don't want to be on the same side as the pro-lifers?

YES!

Posted by: David at 2:06 AM on 23 March 2005