The Soapbox Papers

The Soapbox Papers is my two-cents worth.

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Location: Beloit, Wisconsin, United States

I am a cross between Tinkerbell and Calamity Jane.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Meanwhile...(My Moot Points)

There has been much ado in the news about Ms. Terri Schiavo and her plight. A heart condition brought about brain damage to this woman fifteen years ago. She has been in what the doctors call a 'persistant vegatative state' for those fifteen years. As most people with partners in their lives, Ms. Schiavo and her husband had discussed the possibilities of life, deciding what to do in such an instance. Her husband has been trying to carry out what he knows to be her wishes since then, trying to disconnect her from artificial means of life support: a feeding tube.

On the other side of the coin are Ms. Schiavo's parents, the Schindlers. My heart goes out to them - they have, essentially, lost a child, yet not lost her. The have been grieving, yet not been able to say goodbye. They have been fighting Mr. Schiavo's attempts to carry out his wife's wishes. The tell the press that she can be rehabilitated, citing the recent spontaneaous recovery, complete with speech, of a patient who had been in a similar state as Ms. Schiavo's for over twenty years.

With constant visits from dedicated parents, had there been was a possibility of rehabilitation, certainly we would see something in fifteen years. She has made no improvement, and specialists say she cannot, that the part of her brain that would respond to rehabilitative attempts is now missing, that space in her head filled with fluid. Ms. Schiavo isn't there anymore. It is time to let her go.

So the people line up outside Ms. Schiavo's Hospice as court hearings decide whether Mr. Schiavo can have this feeding tube removed, some on the side of quality of life and then we have the Religious Right, who think not. Governor Jeb Bush tried to stop the court decision last year to allow Mr. Schiavo to finally let his wife rest in peace. At the last minute he introduced what became known as "Terri's Law" which forbade such merciful action. That law was knocked down as unconstitutional. Rightly, it was decided the government should have no input in personal decisions. (That I think Mr. Bush knew this, that I think he invoked what he knew was an unconstitutional law anyway to appease the Religious Right, is a moot point.)

The fact of the matter is, the Schiavos and the Schindlers (her parents) keep the courts busy. Last Friday Judge Greer gave his ruling that Mr. Schiavo could order the removal of his wife's feeding tube in a number of days - the actual delay was to allow the Schindlers to say goodbye, to order Last Rites, and otherwise prepare for her merciful departure. (That I think this was a political decision on Judge Greer's part, knowing full well Ms. Schiavo's death would not be immediate upon removal of her feeding tube, and that there would be enough time naturally for the Last Rites and goodbyes by the Schindlers, is a moot point.)

Religious Righters have come from all over the country to be on hand during last week's court hearings. I cannot help but wonder how many of these 'supporters' actually entered the Hospice to visit, to aid in the rehabilitation, to even speak to Ms. Schiavo. I suspect none. Ms. Schiavo has become one more shrine for these people to visit, like the sun-streaked window in Clearwater that appeared to be the Madonna. And sadly, Ms. Schiavo is every bit as responsive.

But the Religious Right has to stick its nose into the private business of the Schindlers and Mr. Schiavo. The language of the news stories has changed now. Rather than speaking of allowing Ms. Schindler to die, as was her wish expressed to her husband, reports now speak of her husband "killing" Ms. Schiavo; the Religious Right is calling it murder. Words are important, words are weapons when wielded by those with a case to prove. (That I feel their case is wrong, that, without artificial intervention fifteen years ago Ms. Schiavo would mercifully gone on to her afterlife, that her family would have finally been able to grieve their loss, that Mr. Schiavo could also grieve his loss, is a moot point.)

Meanwhile, the Schindlers have pursued one delay after another, the final one announced this evening.They have already asked the court to assign another person to be responsible for Ms. Schiavo other than her husband. This was denied. Now, on their daughter's behalf, the Shindlers want to file for a divorce from Mr. Schiavo. Certainly, they feel, this will bring about another delay. (That I feel this is ridiculous, that the court will see it as the delay tactic that it is, that this is merely one more attempt to assign someone else as Ms. Schiavo's guardian is a moot point.)

I can only hope that Ms. Schiavo has been in such a state that she has no idea what has been going on. What torture it would be to live in the shell of a body that can only lie there. I believe this is the case, else she would have found, in fifteen years, a means to communicate with her family, with her doctors, with those who have been caring for her.

This case serves as a reminder, though. Living Wills are imperative. Write yours. I have written mine. I have discussed with my children that I do not want to be kept alive by artificial means if my prognosis is to fold up in a Hospice bed indefinitely without knowledge, without feelings. (However, the fact that I have also told them that I am not going is a moot point...)



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