Anyone following the Terri Schiavo situation with an open, rational, compassionate mind can see that religious zealots are some of the most immoral people on earth. Who else but Congressional religious zealots would subpoena a woman in a persistent vegetative state to come “testify” (as if she could) on Capitol Hill? And now it appears that the same zealots are rushing through half-baked emergency legislation that would overturn longstanding principles about how end-of-life medical care decisions are made.
This is happening while other religious zealots are trying to break into the hospice where Schiavo is being cared for, trying to bring her bread and water—even though they know that she can’t eat on her own. I feel like puking.
But I won’t. For I’ve just eaten a large, tasty, healthy pancake, topped with strawberries and whipped cream, in honor of Terri Schiavo and her brave husband, Michael. I did this to counter the ridiculous call for a “Fast for Terri.” This is more hypocrisy from those who think that they alone know what is moral.
Michael has it right when he said, after Terri’s feeding tube was removed, “It felt like some peace was happening for Terri. And I felt like she was finally going to get what she wants, and be at peace and be with the Lord.” Amen.
My wife and I can’t understand why those who claim to believe in Christian everlasting life are so afraid of letting death happen naturally. Methinks their lack of faith betrays itself in their reluctance to let Terri pass to the other side, where Michael, her legal guardian, is convinced she wants to be.
Note what often gets forgotten by the zealots: Terri’s husband is her legal guardian. As Arthur Caplan, one of the nation’s leading bioethicists, wrote last October:
“No court has ever been persuaded that Michael Schiavo should be disqualified from making medical decisions on behalf of his wife. And no court has ever been persuaded that Terri has any hope of recovering from her severely brain-damaged state. So the courts have sided with Michael Schiavo using a well-established rule of law, which states that when a patient cannot communicate and has left no written instructions about their wishes, spouses have discretion about continuing or stopping medical care.”
A Fox News poll found that 59% of Americans agree that Terri’s feeding tube should be removed and say that if they were in the same situation, they wouldn’t want to be kept alive artificially. So what the hell is Congress doing trying to interfere with what should be a private decision between Terri’s caregivers and her legal guardian?
The only bright spot in this depressing display of neoconservative/religious intrusion on individual rights is that it should spur more people to sign living wills and health care powers of attorney. In the late 1980s I was one of the founders of Oregon Health Decisions and its first executive director. (Here's a history of OHD) With Ralph Crawshaw, Michael Garland, Carolyn Lobitz, and others dedicated to helping Oregonians make wiser personal and political health decisions, we did a lot to make people realize that these “advance directives” need to be signed before you become seriously ill. If Terri had done this, the legal battles surrounding her wouldn’t be happening.
If you live in Oregon, you can order advance directive forms from the Oregon Health Decisions web site. A FAQ page has some useful information about advance directives. Before filling one out, you need to think carefully about what you want when the end of life nears. Laurel (my wife) and I have different opinions, but we each have advance directives.
Laurel is certain that she doesn’t want extraordinary measures like a feeding tube used to keep her alive if she is terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state, as Terri Schiavo is. So her advance directive makes this clear. I’d rather have Laurel making the decisions on the spot for me, so I’ve signed a health care power of attorney that authorizes her to do just that.
Laurel’s approach assures that she won’t be given extraordinary measures even if I get cold feet and want to keep her alive against her stated wishes. My approach is more flexible because I find it difficult to envision what I would want in a situation that I’ve never experienced.
Here’s an interesting bioethics blog that has some informative and moving posts about the Schiavo case. Glancing through them confirmed my suspicion that those who know the most about bioethical decision-making almost universally are appalled at how ill-informed religious meddlers have injected themselves into the private lives of Terri and Michael.
Another weblog dispels myths and misrepresentations being put forward by Terri’s parents, their attorneys, and fanatical groups such as the Christian Defense Coalition, which is listed as a domestic terrorist group.
Ah, behold the benefits of slavish adherence to religious fundamentalism. From a normal caring human being you can become a domestic terrorist. Count me out. Way out.