Wednesday, October 22, 2003This entire story is just sad, sad, sad.
You may have read some of the accounts of the Terry Schiavo case in Florida; Terry suffered a collapse over 12 years ago, and has remained in a coma, a so-called "persistent vegetative state" since that time. Her husband, Michael, who has acted as her legal guardian won an injunction to have her her feeding tube removed several days ago, which will eventually lead to her death.
Michael says that Terri's wishes prior to her collapse clearly included not wanting to be kept on life support under such circumstances.
On the other side of the case, Terri's parents - Bob and Mary Schindler - who still fervently believe that Terri can someday recover from her brain injury, and want to have the feeding tube reinserted. The Schindlers say that Terri is "alert, active, a live human being," but court-appointed doctors, and Michael Schiavo's attorney George Felos disagree. "If you look at a brain scan of Terri, where her cerebral cortex used to be is a black hole filled with spinal fluid," Felos said.
Now, Florida governor Jeb Bush - in his passionate "Right To Life" stance - has issued an overriding order to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted; never mind the fact that Terri's body was already "in the dying mode," so to speak, and reinitiating feeding and hydration would probably only extend the "death process."
Why on earth is Jeb Bush using his power to extend this woman's suffering? He is only feeding into the Schindlers' illusion of having such strong faith that they believe a miracle will happen - and Terri will someday wake up from over a dozen years of blackness and be restored.
While no one can ever say "never," the odds look very, very slim, indeed - and during this waiting, many people suffer. Wouldn't a reasonable, compassionate person realize that what is happening to Terri Schiavo is that her body is only being further tortured? The doctors, hospitals and insurance companies are undoubtedly making a million-dollar killing on her warehousing (it's a stretch to call it "care" at this point, I think), and the Schindler's mourning process is only further postponed.
Jeb Bush, in his zeal to appeal to Right-to-Life fundamentalists, is causing more suffering than healing. He's presiding over a private family matter as if he was granting an 11th hour pardon to a Death Row prisoner. What I'd like to know, is why now? Why terminate feeding after 12 years, and for that matter why was she on life support for 12 years?
This is the blurry leading edge of medicine, where in the interest of invoking God doctors, family and governors end up trying to play God. Terri is only alive today because of pumps, tubes, syringes, drugs and respirators...not God. What would people have done if Terri lived a hundred, two hundred years ago? They would have had to let her go....and they would have said her death "was God's will."
Just because we can keep the flesh alive indefinitely does not mean we are keeping the person alive; strong evidence points to the fact that the person that was Terri died back in 1990. Just because we can doesn't always mean we should.
If she truly is a "alert, active, a live human being" as her parents claim - and what parent wouldn't interpret any glimmer as hope, no matter how immaterial - then how can they justify extending her dozen years of suffering so?