Wednesday, March 30, 2005


The sorry spectacle of the Terri Schiavo case has been played out in the state and Federal courts, in the mainstream media and even on the floor of the U.S. Senate and in the White House for the last two months and it has seemed clear to many progressive writers and commentators that the Bush Administration and the GOP-dominated Senate has been bending over backwards to intervene in what appears to be a clear case of an individual's right to die, or at the very least, to euthanize someone who is in a vegetative state and is never going to get better, someone who had unwittingly become an unconsciable burden to her family and loved ones. How dare our Federal government yield to the whims of the Right t0 Lifers and far religious right on this issue when they should have no legal right to interfere?

The only thing wrong with this synopsis is that it is both right and wrong. The Schiavo case is far more complicated--and more sinister--than that.

"How can this be?", you might reasonably ask. Well, the problem is that--once again--the mainstream media has failed to do its job to report the story in a thorough and balanced fashion. Recent polls indicate that the vast majority of Americans believe that the President and the Federal courts have overstepped their responsibilities in the Schiavo matter. But how many of those polled would change their mind if they knew the following:

--That it has never been definitively determined by medical officials whether or not Terri Schiavo really is in "a persistent vegetative state."

--That Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband, refuses to allow doctors to conduct more tests to determine the exact state of her incapacity.

--That Mr. Schiavo is currently living with another woman, has two kids by this woman and would like to marry her legally, something he can never do as long as Terri is still alive.

--That merely disconnecting Terri's feeding tube, if she is in fact NOT in a persistent vegetative state, may be tantamount to murdering her via cruel and unusual punishment.

These are four indisputable facts from the case. Want to read more? Check out Nat Hentoff's excellent essay in this week's Village Voice. Even if you don't agree with all of his analysis, it was certainly eye-opening to see just how much information has been left out by the mainstream media or spun by Michael Schiavo's lawyer.

Of course, one problem is that the Right to Lifers have jumped on this case as a cause celebre and they have been twisting its implications to suit their political agenda. Also, if a person doesn't leave a living will or some kind of clear legal document as to their intentions if they should become incapacitated, then they will become prey to anybody in their family who may want to disrespect or misinterpret their intentions for whatever selfish reasons. Terri Schiavo doesn't deserve this fate of course (none of us does), but this is one of those areas where the law is woefully lacking. Modern medicine continues to be way ahead of legal precedent. And Terri Schiavo can't tell us what she wants, so mouthpieces on both sides that don't have her best interests at heart are speaking for her.

Maybe this is not a case that is suitable for the Federal government to intervene in. It certainly stands as counter to what Republicans have always claimed as their preference for individual rights and smaller government. But before we assume this is just a basic civil rights issue and that Terri Schiavo should be allowed to die, ask yourself the following question:

Is it euthanasia or is it murder?

I admit that I was wrong because I didn't have all the facts. If only the media would get around to reporting the whole story, more of us could make an informed opinion.

Dissents and Laments


Anonymous L.A. Woman said...

If Michael Schiavo wanted to marry the woman he has been in a 10 year realtionship with, couldn't he just divorce Terri? Does he actuallyneed her to die to get out of the marriage? I'm sure her parents would love to get rid of him. At this point, the woman he lives with is his common-law wife anyway, right? Maybe Michael realizes what some of the right to lifers don' all likelyhood Terri will be in that state for ever. That is not life. Why are all of the right to lifers so hesitant to actually meet the man whose morals/laws/commandments they claim to hold to dear? Let the poor woman be with God.

3:27 PM  

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