Saturday, March 26, 2005

Schiavo redux, one more time

Everyone else in the world has weighed in by now on the Schiavo case. They seem to be roughly divided into three camps: keep her alive at all costs, let her die already, and why in the world are we involved with this at all?

Put me firmly in the last. I'm tired of slippery-slope arguments. I've noticed that slope ain't so slippery as some idealists would have the rest of us believe. Oh yes, there are families out there who'd skin Mom just as soon as glance at her but they've always been there. Dysfunctional is a fairly new word but the concept has been around as long as there've been primates on the planet. There is another dysfunction that affects just as many families, and that is called denial. Terri Schiavo's parents and other kin fall firmly in that category but they are hardly unique. I don't blame them one iota for it. This isn't about guilt, it isn't about blame, there are no villains here although on occasion I have been filled with wonder about their obstinency and their hatred for and villification of anyone who thwarts what they want to do. They remind me of my four year old who still throws fits when he's been told he's not allowed to do something. He will demand that which is impossible and scream when he's denied, unable to believe that the demand is impossible. The Schindlers display an ignorance of our legal system that is downright shocking, considering how long they've been marinated in it. When they demand that Governor Bush disregard the law of the land and the constitution that provides its framework, they are brushing aside every tradition that we as a nation have held dear since the Revolutionary war, and they are doing it for personal and selfish reasons -- and insist, all evidence to the contrary, that Governor Bush does have the power to do what they order him to do. I hold no affection for the Bush clan but this strident and impossible demand makes me wince in sympathy for Jeb. Legally he can do nothing more than what he is doing, and they are demanding that he forfeit his office, his duties, and his freedoms in what would be a futile gesture anyway. If he had Terri moved from her hospice he would duly be charged with kidnapping and that would only be the beginning of his legal woes -- interfering with a court order and abuse of office would just be the beginning. And Terri would still not have the feeding tube reinserted.

But enough. What I want to ramble on about is something different and just as difficult. It is a matter of evolving technology and ethics. It is a concept that has been labeled Right to Die but I'm not certain the label is encompassing enough of the social concept that is evolving. Years ago Terri Schiavo wouldn't even be a footnote in a newspaper because the technology did not exist that would have brought her back from that fatal heart attack, did not exist that could have provided her sustenance and support even had she survived. I do not argue against the technology, only about our consensus on it.

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