Drooling on the Pillow

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


I'd like to think this is the last piece I'll put together on the Terri Schiavo case.

Like most people, I have a feeling about it, a non-deliberative desire, and I look around for sensible remarks that support it. I put aside all the legal and constitutional posturing on both sides. I take it as a given that both sides are using the case to further an agenda, but as I believe we need, occasionally, to reformulate or reaffirm our ethical consensus on hot issues, I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. Let one side make their case for making the end of life a more rational, personal event. Let the other side point out the difficulties this can pose down the road. And by all means, let the legislative and judicial branches, the federal and the state authorities fight it out. Everybody: speak up.

Here are my witnesses.

Ross Douthat at The American Scene:
In response to the commentors' complaints that I'm letting
bloggers' glosses (or Peggy Noonan's glosses) trump the facts
in the case, I would say this: please, read the court's original
. It bases the decision to cease feeding Schiavo on
comments that she reportedly made in passing at a funeral,
and to her husband after watching a TV movie. Under Florida
law, this may well be the correct decision . . . but if so, then I
think Florida law ought to be changed. I would be very, very
upset if I went into a vegetative state, and decisions about the
disposition of my life were made based on some random,
undocumented comments I'd made to my spouse after
watching a movie about comas. In the absence of a living will
or similar document -- and particularly when there are people,
like your parents, who are willing to care for you in perpetuity --
I think the presumption should always be to leave people who
are alive, well, alive, no matter what state their brain tissue is
in. Not because I think Terri Schiavo is coming back to
consciousness. I'm sure she's not. But because I think the state
shouldn't be in the business of ordering the killing -- and that's
what withholding a feeding tube is; it's not the same as taking
someone off life support -- of an innocent human being, even if
that person is lost to us, and even if that person's husband says
that it's what she would have wanted.

And I don't mean to suggest that Michael Schiavo is an evil man
who wants to kill his wife so he can marry some floozy; as the
commentors point out, he could get a divorce easily enough. No,
I'm sure that he honestly believes that he's doing the right thing.
But I'm equally sure that people's motives in something like this
are a mixed and messy bag, and I wouldn't be surprised if Mr.
Schiavo's eagerness to put his wife to sleep once and for all has
at least something to do, on a subconscious level, with his
obvious desire to make a fresh romantic and marital start. Which
is why he shouldn't be able to make the choice for her.

Zetjintsu, a commenter at 2 Blowhards, responding to this post by Fenster Hoop

I think this issue is confused by misconceptions on both the left
and right. On the right, that Terri is alive. That which was Terri
ceased to exist in this world a long time ago. On the left, I think
there's a fear of how awful it'd be to "imprisoned" in a vegetable
body. This is a fallacy caused by looking at it from the perspective
of our current self. However, if we go brain dead our current self
will be gone, and we won't have the faculties to consider our
vegetative state tortuous. Being a vegetable is not horrendous
for the vegetable, though I do wonder if being cruelly starved to
death does cause them distress...

To give the husband credit, I think he does believe in what he's
doing, that this is what "Terri wants." The error of course is that
Terri doesn't want anything, she's long dead. And the vegetable
that Terri's become certainly doesn't "want" to die, if it wants
anything it's to take in nutrients/air, sleep, and eliminate.

Which makes this a somewhat low stake issue as there's nothing
in reality that's being fought over; there is no Terri for the right
to save the "life" of, and there is no Terri for the left to liberate
from her "imprisonment". The husband would lose nothing if
Terri was spared.

However, and this is what I think is key, her parents will suffer
greatly if she's killed. Yes, this is because of their misconception
that Terri is still alive, but the fact is that that's how they are
perceiving reality, and there's nothing that can be done to change
that. If Terri's killed, they'll experience the horror of believing
their precious daughter was cruelly murdered by an adulterous
monster posing as her husband. Only and utterly insensitive jerk
would inflict such suffering upon parents. A bitterness like that
will stay with them like poison the rest of there lives. If the
parents can pay for her treatment costs, then let them keep
their comforting little delusion alive. The husband may currently
have the legal right to end her life, but it's not the right choice.

And for some contrarian views on the medical realities, Dr. CBB at CodeBlueBlog.

As I've pointed out elsewhere, I'm not a Life zealot. I don't believe the government has any useful role to play in legislating one way or another concerning abortion, certainly in the first trimester. And I believe in the death penalty. I'm aware that the Florida courts found that Ms. Schiavo had expressed her DNR desires and, had she written them down this would have all been over long ago. I don't think Michael Schiavo is wrong to have moved on with his life, but shouldn't a common law wife and two children effect his standing in this case? I believe the judge has followed the law and is doing his best with a hellishly difficult case. The law has spoken, clearly and consistently, but that doesn't mean it's right. Or that people who believe it's wrong shouldn't use every means available to stop it. The appropriate correlative is opposition to the death penalty. Once the law has spoken, no matter how clearly or forcefully, the game has just begun. This one's gone on long enough. I hope, one way or the other, it is over soon.
Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com Listed on BlogShares