Monday, March 21, 2005

The Tragedy of Terri Schaivo

For the past couple of weeks we have been subjected to a circus with a human being in the center ring. The fight over Terri Schaivo is an embarrassment. Her husband, after receiving a settlement of almost a million dollars for her care, has hooked up with another woman and fathered two children with her; not exactly the perfect example of a loving husband. But even if you do not ascribe base motives to his behavior - it seems a bit strange. Why not release her to her parents who seem to want to care for her? He comments that she had made protestations about her desires although her parents, to whom she seems to have been close never heard them. Some news reports suggest that his quest came only after the financial settlement.

Politicians have glommed on to this issue like bees to honey. They have referred to a woman they have never met as an old friend. Thankfully, this morning’s Wall Street Journal had a piece that sets the issue as clearly as it can be from James Q. Wilson. Wilson is often able to separate the wheat from the chaff, and in this case he does it with clarity. Is Terry Schaivo brain dead or in a constant vegetative state? In a constant vegetative state, there is the possibility, however remote, of recovery. If she is the former, then disconnecting her apparatus is merely speeding up an inevitable process. If she is the latter, then disconnecting her from sustenance is murder.

But the real story here is that with new technologies come new ways of doing things. Mrs. Schaivo should have made her wishes clear in a document. That is the price we pay today.

1 comment:

J DeVous said...

Jonathan; regarding "The Tragedy of Terri Schiavo", I am forwarding the "tongue in cheek document" sent me by the daughter of a very close friend. this is intended to be an insightful agreement to your blogmentary on the issue... Your friend in Christ, James es: I couldn't agree with you more; give here over to her parents...

Please feel free to print out the following form for your own living will in case you need to update yours or if you do not have one in place.

I, _________________________ (fill in the blank), being of sound mind and body, do not wish to be kept alive indefinitely by artificial means.

Under no circumstances should my fate be put in the hands of any peckerwood doctors, or ethically challenged politicians who couldn't pass ninth-grade biology if their lives depended on it. If a reasonable amount of time passes and I fail to sit up and ask for a martini straight up; cold beer etc. (substitute your choice), it should be presumed that I won't ever get better. When such a determination is reached, I hereby instruct my spouse, children and attending physicians to pull the plug, reel in the tubes and call it a day.

Under no circumstances shall the hypocritical members of the Legislature (State or Federal) enact a special law to keep me on life-support machinery. It is my wish that these boneheads mind their own damn business, and pay attention instead to the health, education and future of the millions of Americans who aren't in a permanent coma or vegetative state.

Under no circumstances shall any politicians butt into this case. I don't care how many fundamentalist votes they're trying to scrounge for their run for the presidency, it is my wish that they play politics with someone else's life and leave me alone to die in peace. I couldn't care less if a hundred religious zealots send emails to legislators in which they pretend to care about me. I don't know these people, and I certainly haven't authorized them to preach and crusade on my behalf. They should mind their own business, too.

If any of my family goes against my wishes and turns my case into a political cause, I hereby promise to come back from the grave and make his or her existence a living hell.

_______________________Signature _________________________ Witness

DATE__________ DATE_____________