- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Terri Schiavo case

I applaud Congress for passing the law that delays Terri Schiavo’s unprovoked death by neglect. I do, however, take issue with one of the arguments in favor of going forward in this way.

Whether she has a chance of improving with rehabilitation is irrelevant. She is alive, and that should be enough evidence that she is in need of protection. There are many people in society in similar circumstances.

The nation’s long-term-care facilities are full of people like Mrs. Schiavo, and we do not, so far as I know, go about the business of withholding food and water from them because we consider their lives to be substandard. Their mere existence does not in any way harm anyone else.

In a country where coldblooded, vicious, unremorseful adolescent murderers cannot be put to death for their crimes against others, how can anyone even think of killing an innocent human being such as Terri Schiavo?

SHEILA M. BLANCHET

Guilford, Conn.

While my heart goes out to Terri Schiavo, I am completely disgusted at the political posturing taking place in the Republican-controlled Congress, which is, in essence, trivializing end-of-life wishes as a mere political hot-button issue of the week.

Congress has promised that the bills enacted will apply only to Mrs. Schiavo. On the contrary, any law enacted by Congress and signed by the president takes precedence ipso facto, and applies to all Americans. Sadly, there is no higher power to reel in Congress now that it is playing God as well.

AMIT KUMAR

Rockville

Why do modern Christians, who are supposed to believe that death is not the end, do everything to avoid death? Christians act just like atheists, who believe that this life is all that there is, so you’d better hang onto it even if you are in a vegetative state. I don’t get it.

Although a person who is in a persistent vegetative state may be able to live without life support as long as someone feeds her, what’s the point if she is functionally brain-dead and, her husband says, what is happening is contrary to her wishes?

Why is Congress, which allows perfectly healthy babies to be aborted, getting involved in this case? Consistency is not a virtue, but in the absence of virtue, it has to do. But virtue and consistency would perhaps be asking too much of the U.S. Congress.

JOSEPH PARKER

Martinsburg, W.Va.

Terri Schiavo has a right to life; we all do. But does the right to life include the right to live as a vegetable? Does it include the right to submit one’s husband to the status of permanent caretaker, with endless emotional pain and mile-high medical bills?

Speaking of medical bills, do conservative Republicans who want people like Terri Schiavo kept alive also want the government — meaning you and me — to foot those bills?

Republicans favor expanding the welfare state (e.g., Medicare) just as Democrats do; aren’t they submitting this welfare state to even more economy-busting medical expenses than we already have, and in the name of … what? Keeping the hopelessly ill and barely alive breathing another few days or weeks?

The dangerous, ugly side of this whole issue is that it’s not being treated as a borderline case or as the unfortunate exception that it is.

Instead, religious conservatives are trying to use it as an example of how any kind of life is life, no matter how partial or tenuous or barely hanging on that life might be.

They know that if they can impose force on the living to keep alive the barely living, they can likewise impose force on the living to bring into existence unwanted lives. Their view of life is not rational; it’s religious.

When they say that this country is founded not on reason but on faith, they mean it.

MICHAEL J. HURD

Chevy Chase

Congress hastily drafted a bill to amend Chapter 153 of Title 28, U.S. Code (supposedly on behalf of Terri Schiavo, alone) to insert verbiage that actually doesn’t affect the Schiavo case, as her legally recognized guardian (husband) would be the only one with “standing” to litigate; he chooses not to; and, to this date, no court has seen fit to remove him.

To give anyone but the legal guardian of an incapacitated person standing would allow any and every special-interest group to invade the sanctity of every decision to terminate life support or nourishment and hydration if no living will exists.

Section 2 (b) (2) of the bill is so broad as to state “in circumstances in which there is a contested judicial proceeding…” without specifying who, if anyone other than the legal guardian, can dispute the supposed expressed wishes of the incapacitated person.

If parents of a married person can contest, can siblings, grandparents, cousins twice removed or great-grandaunts contest under this new law? How about clergy, politicians, the hospice earning revenue from the patient’s continued residency and life insurance companies wishing to postpone death benefits?

ROBERT KLEPAK

Conyers, Ga.

I am saddened that politicians are injecting themselves into the private tragedy of a permanently handicapped individual. The courts already have decided. The husband is acting within his legal rights. Congress and the president are overstepping their boundaries.

Family members must struggle painfully, but privately, with these excruciatingly difficult end-of-life decisions. Who among us would want our privacy so violated if we were to become in her condition?

Terri Schiavo needs protection from an ultimate insult to her dignity and humanity: being dehumanized into a symbol, spotlighted and politicized in a media sideshow.

ROBERT E. GRIFFIN

Forty Fort, Pa.

Terri Schiavo’s fight for life in Florida is a strong reminder that euthanasia is senseless and inhumane and should be opposed in all its forms.

Our culture tends to consider suffering the epitome of evil. In such a culture, there is a great temptation to resolve the problem of suffering by eliminating it at the root, by hastening death so that it occurs at the moment considered most suitable.

As we approach Easter, we are reminded that in Christian teaching, suffering, especially suffering during the last moments of life, has a special place in God’s saving plan; it is in fact a sharing in Christ’s passion.

Mrs. Schiavo’s husband, Michael, claims that his wife had told him she would not want to be kept alive artificially. However, true compassion leads to sharing another’s pain; it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear.

Unfortunately, there exists in contemporary culture a certain Promethean attitude, which leads people to think that they can control life and death by taking the decisions about them into their own hands. What really happens in this case is that the individual is overcome and crushed by a death deprived of any prospect of meaning or hope.

PAUL KOKOSKI

Hamilton, Ontario

If I end up in a persistent vegetative state, I hope Rep. Tom DeLay keeps his nose out of my business. The decision about what to do with me will lie strictly with my family.

Mr. DeLay and others in his party keep claiming they’re for “smaller” government. What I didn’t realize until now is that they’re really in favor of small-minded government. Turning the Terri Schiavo case into a national issue to engage their voter base, holding hearings on steroids when they have no authority to do anything: Republicans keep inserting themselves into matters that Congress has no business being in.

I am outraged, and I think that every American in this country should also be outraged, that this government is trampling all over a family matter that has been adjudicated in 19 courts over seven years.

There is no victory in cases like this; there is only heartbreak. Shame on Mr. DeLay and the entire Republican Party for manipulating this story for their own ends.

WILLIAM STOSINE

Iowa City, Iowa

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