The Terri Schiavo case is a perfect example of how politicians use every opportunity to parade around with their chests puffed out, proclaiming how they “value life,” completely ignorant of their own hypocrisy. The main hypocrite here is President Bush, who flew back to DC from another one of his vacations in Crawford just so he could sign any bill passed by Congress that would keep this poor woman’s feeding tube connected. Could he have signed this bill in Crawford? Sure he could’ve. But this is an important issue, right? Certainly more important than getting a memo that says something like “Bin Laden Determined To Strike Within The United States.” For that one, you can stay on vacation, Mr. Bush.
Since Bush and his cohorts hold themselves up as defenders of family values and are using this case as an example of their upstanding moral character, it might be interesting to know that just last week, the state of Texas allowed a critically ill 5-month-old baby to be taken off life support, even though the mother pleaded with those involved to keep him alive.
Who decided that the life support should be terminated in that case? A judge in Texas. A judge determined that doctors were allowed to halt care for people if they believed that any continuing care “would be futile.”
This decision was based upon Senate Bill 1260 which then-governor George W. Bush signed into law. The statute provides for life-and-death medical decisions to be made doctors in Texas, with the support of a hospital ethics committe, if there is no hope of recovery for the patient, and if the patient cannot afford the associated healthcare costs.
You can read about the little boy’s case at the CNN website. According to the article,
Sun Hudson had been diagnosed with a fatal genetic disorder called thanatophoric dysplasia, a condition characterized by a tiny chest and lungs too small to support life. He had been on a ventilator since birth.
Wanda Hudson unsuccessfully fought to continue her son’s medical care. She believed he needed time to grow and could eventually be weaned off the ventilator.
I heard Jackie Mason on the radio the other day asking who would it hurt if the parents have offered to take care of Terri Schiavo and relieve the husband of any responsibility for her care? That’s hardly the issue. The real issue is whether or not you, as a human being, will be allowed to make your own choices as to whether or not you wish to die with dignity, or have extraordinary means used to keep you alive if you’re brain dead.
This is a win-win situation for Republicans, and lose-lose for Terri and her husband. The politicians get to stand up and proclaim they’re all about “life” and “goodness” and “godliness.” If the Federal Courts finally decide that Schaivo and her husband, as a family unit, are legally allowed to make decisions about their own health care, the justices will be railed against by the right-wing, who will claim once again that it’s these “activist judges” that are destroying America. Not only that, but there are sure to be “wrongful death” lawsuits filed against Michael Schiavo. Already, his name has been dragged through the mud, his every move for the past decade has been scrutinized, and some have even labelled him a murderer. As if it isn’t difficult enough to make ethical decisions sometimes without people screaming at you?
And if Terri is forced against her wishes to have extraordinary means used to keep her body alive, then the Republicans can claim victory… Victory in stepping on personal rights once again and in making decisions for people about their own private lives. This, despite the fact that the Florida courts, on every time they have been asked to make a decision in this case, have sided with Terri and her husband in declaring this is a personal, family matter with which the courts have no business becoming involved.
Maybe some think the family’s case hasn’t been adequately expressed or examined? According to this article at Salon.com, this case has now been heard by an appellate court SIX TIMES, and Terri has been examined by several court-independent experts on the subject. In addition, “The court also found that the husband was a caring, loving spouse whose actions were in Terri’s best interests.” Reverend John Paris, a professor of bioethics at Boston College, a man who often testifies in such cases and was introduced in the article as someone “equally capable of discussing the legal details of the Schiavo case and the Catholic Church’s view of it”, noted the following:
The law is clear, the medicine is clear, the ethics are clear. A presidential commission in 1983, appointed by Ronald Reagan, issued a very famous document called “Deciding to Forgo Life-Sustaining Treatment.” It talked about the appropriate treatment for patients who are permanently unconscious. The commission said the only justification for continuing any treatment — and they specifically talked about feeding tubes — is either the slight hope that the patient might recover or the family’s hope that the patient might recover. Terri Schiavo’s legitimate family — the guardian, the spouse — has persuaded the court that she wouldn’t want [intervention] and therefore it shouldn’t happen. Now you have the brother and sister, the mother and father, saying that’s all wrong. But they had their day in court, they had their weeks in court, they had their years in court!
There are signs though, that a slight possibility exists for this to backfire in the GOP’s faces. A new ABC Poll suggests that a majority of Americans think Congress is overreaching in getting involved in this case. Not only that, but there has been at least slight publicity about the talking points memo sent around to Republican Senators that claimed the following, among other things:
- This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue.
- This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats.
These people will stop at nothing to advance their political agenda. Michael Schiavo was even offered up to ten million dollars to just walk away and let Terri’s parents take care of her. Speaking through his attorney, Mr. Schiavo said that “Michael has said over and over again that this case is not about money for him. It’s about carrying out his wife’s wishes. There is no amount of money anyone can offer that will cause him to turn his back on his wife.”
We should expect no less of our own spouses.
In all this confusion, one thing is certain. God help you if one of your own ethical struggles makes it onto the radar of a politician these days.