Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Everybody Wants to Join the Schiavo Circus

You’ve got the Right-to-Lifers saying God wants Schiavo to be hooked up to a feeding tube forever, you’ve got the Living Will folks telling us to make a living will or we could end up like Terri Schiavo, you’ve got the far-right born-again holies saying being a breathing vegetable is divine, you’ve got Catholics saying she’ll go to hell unless the feeding tube is reinserted, you’ve got incompetent doctors like Senate Majority Leader, William Frist testifying that Terri Schiavo is not in a vegetative state. You’ve got corrupt pols like Senate Majority Leader Tom DeLay talking about morals, you’ve got George W. Bush who has his own mental problems, rushing around enacting laws that are probably unconstitutional, you’ve got the husband saying she would never want to be alive although dead, you’ve got the parents saying she smiles, she responds, she lives. Of all the voices clambering to be heard in this bizarre case, the one that all sides can agree with is the voice of the Living Will folks. Nobody in his right mind would want to wind up like Terri Schiavo. As desperate parents will do, Terri Schiavo’s parents are clinging to ideas that are in error. They believe that a brain that has ceased to function can be repaired. It can’t. And the Pope put out a mandate that can’t be implemented. Last fall Pope John Paul II said it was morally wrong to withhold food, water and health care from anyone in a vegetative state. Fair enough. But unless the Pope is suggesting that the Catholic church will foot the medical bills for keeping everyone in the world alive who is in a vegetative state, his moral directive amounts to an unfunded mandate. An unfunded mandate is morally wrong. But so little has been written about what would be involved in the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube. When the final arbiter--Federal District Court Judge James D. Whittemore --asked how long it would take to transport Ms. Schiavo to a nearby hospital to replace the tube, he was told it would take about two hours and that the reinsertion would require surgery. He was also told that Ms Schiavo would need to be hospitalized for several days while her electrolyte balance was restored. One wonders if she could survive these extraordinary measures? No one knows. Terri Schiavo’s brain cannot be repaired. And the Pope notwithstanding, it iisn't possible to keep all brain-dead people alive forever. At what point will it be okay to remove the tube? If not today, would it be okay in the year 2105? What exactly do Terri Schiavo’s parents want? What they really want is for their daughter to be restored to the life she had before her eating disorder, before her heart attack, before she went into a coma in February 1990. That, along with the Pope’s unfunded moral mandate is not possible.

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