Friday, March 25, 2005

How Liberalism Failed Terri Schiavo

Eric Cohen's article on How Liberalism Failed Terri Schiavo is outstanding. First, he recalls the basic facts on the ground:
In February 1990, a sudden loss of oxygen to the brain left Theresa Marie Schiavo in a coma and eventually in a profoundly incapacitated state. Terri's husband, Michael Schiavo, took care of her, working alongside Terri's parents. He took her to numerous doctors; he pursued experimental treatments; he sought at least some modest restoration of her self-awareness. In November 1992, he testified at a malpractice hearing that he would care for Terri for the rest of her life, that he "wouldn't trade her for the world," that he was going to nursing school to become a better caregiver. He explicitly reaffirmed his marriage vow, "through sickness, in health."

But the lonely husband eventually began seeing other women. His frustration with his wife's lack of improvement
seemed to grow. When Terri suffered a urinary tract infection in the summer of 1993, he decided to cease all treatment, believing that her time to die had come, that this was what Terri would have wanted. But Terri's caregivers refused to let her die, and Michael Schiavo relented--for the time being. Not all Terri's doctors, however, saw their medical obligation in the same way; one physician declared that Terri had basically been dead for years, and told Michael that he should remove her feeding tube. Michael responded that he "couldn't do that to Terri," that he could never leave his wife to die of dehydration. But at some point, his heart changed. He decided that it was time for her final exit and his new beginning. He decided that his own wishes--for children, for a new family, for new love unclouded by old obligations--were also her wishes. He decided that she had a right to die and that he had a right to let her die.

Cohen then isolates the two primary questions in the case:
First, what would Terri Schiavo have wanted? Would she want to die rather than live in a profoundly incapacitated condition? Was Michael Schiavo's decision to remove her feeding tube an act of fidelity to his wife's prior wishes or an act of betrayal of the woman entrusted to his care? Second, what was Terri Schiavo's precise medical condition?

Read it all.


Anonymous said...

WASHINGTON, March 24 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Consumer Advocate Ralph Nader and Wesley J. Smith, author of the award winning book "Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America" call upon the Florida Courts, Governor Jeb Bush and concerned citizens to take any legal action available to let Terri Schiavo live.

"A profound injustice is being inflicted on Terri Schiavo," Nader and Smith asserted today. "Worse, this slow death by dehydration is being imposed upon her under the color of law, in proceedings in which every benefit of the doubt-and there are many doubts in this case-has been given to her death, rather than her continued life."

Among the many injustices in this case, Nader and Smith point to the following:

The courts not only are refusing her tube feeding, but have ordered that no attempts be made to provide her water or food by mouth. Terri swallows her own saliva. Spoon feeding is not medical treatment. "This outrageous order proves that the courts are not merely permitting medical treatment to be withheld, it has ordered her to be made dead," Nader and Smith assert.

The medical and rehabilitation experts are split on whether Terri is in a persistent vegetative state or whether Terri can be improved with therapy. There is only one way to know for sure- permit the therapy. That is the only way to resolve all doubts.

The court is imposing process over justice. After the first trial in this case, much evidence has been produced that should allow for a new trial-which was the point of the hasty federal legislation. If this were a death penalty case, this evidence would demand reconsideration. Yet, an innocent disabled woman is receiving less justice.

The federal and state governments are spending billions on what we are told will become miracle medical cures for people with all sorts of degenerative conditions, including brain damage. If this is so, why not permit Terri's parents and siblings who want to care for her do so in the hope that such cures are discovered?

Benefits of doubts should be given to life, not hastened death. This case is rife with doubt. Justice demands that Terri be permitted to live.

natterpole said...

On the Weekly Standard cruise we heard a lot about the vagaries of the mainstream press.

There are thousands of cases each year where families have to make this kind of difficult choice. Why are the GalleySlaves (slavishly?) letting themselves be led down the mainstream press primrose path by dwelling at such length on this specific case? Why are you not posing the general question, stating your position, and then addressing the real issues (e.g. such as why in the world Congress would waste the time and energy to consider private legislation for this specific case?.

What is your position on the underlying philosophical problems? What are the ethical, moral, religious issues? You haven't helped me much here.

My personal belief is that enough time has passed to justify terminating her life support. But why are the medical details appropriate for the mainstream press? Much more to the point, why are they appropriate for GalleySlaves' blog?

I have a will that requests that no such heroic measures be taken for me. So I seem to have a fundamental disagreement with what seem to be the underlying premises. Cohen's article then comes across as some kind of a rant, proof by heated assertion. I wonder about your unqualified endorsement of the piece.

Jay D. Homnick said...

Yeah, but more to the point: wasn't it a great cruise?