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Terri Schiavo Dead

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I don't have anything to say on this other than it was a horrible way to die and she should have been allowed to die 15 years ago. See my entry on thoughts on Terri, euthanasia, abortion and the death penalty for more.

Washington Post

Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman whose condition ignited a protracted legal struggle, died today at a Florida hospice, 13 days after her feeding tube was removed under a court order.

Representatives of both sides in a dispute over her fate confirmed the death shortly before 10 a.m. EST.

Tipped by: Outside The Beltway

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Posted by Digger on March 31, 2005 08:32 AM (Permalink)

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Although I have problems with allowing someone to starve to death, I'm in a way, relieved to hear of her death. Since I am not married, I made sure to have a living will drawn up for me in case something should happen that would leave me in a vegitative state so my parents wouldn't have to make the decision to try to keep me alive or not. Her parents have kept her alive this long because they don't want to let go, even though their daughter was suffering. As a parent, you would think that they would have more compassion for their child.

Posted by: cjs on March 31, 2005 10:19 AM

"their daughter was suffering"

How was she "suffering"? (I mean before they removed her feeding tube.) And how do you know this?

I would think starving (or 'dehydrating') to death would cause great "suffering"; I heard they gave Terri morphine, and this is probably why.

"more compassion for their child"

What do you suggest they should have done? Done to show or demonstrate their "compassion"?


"allowing someone to starve to death"

You have "problems" with this.

"my parents wouldn't have to make the decision"

So what would you want your parents -- or whomever -- to do? Did you give specific instructions about that? Given your 'problem', would you want to be starved to death?

By the way, suppose someone did this to, say, an injured dog? Instead of euthanizing the animal, they just put it in an enclosure and allowed it to die of thirst or starvation. What would your reaction be? Would you have "problems" with that too? Could such a person be charged with a crime? (I think animal cruelty would cover that.) Do you think they should be? Would they be?

Posted by: x on April 1, 2005 01:58 AM

In case you can't read or just missed it, I said that I DO NOT agree with starving someone to death. And I guess that if you were in her situation, you'd want someone to keep you alive too, even though you couldn't even play with silly putty because your brain didn't have the mental capacity for it. And yes, i have outlined specifics for myself if anything should happen to me.

Posted by: cjs on April 1, 2005 06:51 AM

This is exactly what you said:

"I have problems with allowing someone to starve to death..."

Which is quite different from:

"I said that I DO NOT agree with starving..."

So yes, as you can see, I can read. And if you are actually absolutely, unequivocally opposed to it, why didn't you say that in the first instance? Instead of (what anyone would say is) the rather more ambivalent phrasing you used?

If my brain were like "silly putty", then presumably I wouldn't have any thoughts, so how would I be able to "want someone to keep (me) alive"; maybe you can explain this?

Anyway, I would not want to be starved to death. Nor would I want anyone to euthanize me. Which leaves...exactly what?

"specifics for myself"

Instead of sarcasm implying you would not want to be 'kept alive', maybe you can enlighten me about this? Such as? -- i.e. what sort of "specifics"? Do you want them to give you the big shot?

Lastly, you failed to answer all of my questions, including and especially the more difficult ones about some of your explicit statements. I'm especially interested to learn how you know Terri Schiavo was "suffering", and how her parents could have shown her more "compassion"; some specifics, please.

Posted by: x on April 3, 2005 09:27 AM

I apologize for my lack of clarification: I do not believe that someone should be starved to death. Next time I will be more hell bent on getting my point across. I did not say that her brain was like silly putty, I said that she didn't even have the mental capacity for playing with it. And if you're telling me that if you went from being a normal, intelligent person to the state that Terri was in and you want to be kept alive, then I guess that's something that you will have to make sure happens for you. I sure wouldn't want it, but that's just me. And I most absolutley do believe in euthanasia. If you had say, cancer, you were terminal, the doctors say that it might be 2 days before you die or 2 months because they don't know. You're in an unbearable amount of pain, and you had the option of "the big shot". You would rather go on, "suffering" (for lack of a better word)? Well, go right on ahead buddy, that's your choice. Just like it's mine to have a living will that makes sure that it won't happen to me. And if you would like, I would be more than happy to scan my papers and email them to you, just to clear a few things up. They are rather long, so you'll have to excuse me for not outlining them all here.

Posted by: cjs on April 4, 2005 07:38 AM

Jeez, can't we all just chalk this up to a difference of opinion and get along?

Posted by: kit on April 4, 2005 11:12 AM

Thanks for the clarification.

Question: Have you ever been close to death? Or in a situation, i.e. a health crisis, where you, perhaps for the first time, felt you were in real danger? I wonder...

Another question: Suppose you are a kid and in a swimming pool, just horsing around, whatever, and someone -- a bully maybe -- forces your head under water and holds it there. What would you do? How would you react? The answer is obvious, isn't it? You would FIGHT LIKE HELL to get back up to the air.

The point is this: The will to live, and the instinctive response of the autonomous parts of your brain to keep you alive, are powerful forces. A lot more powerful than you imagine, probably. And they interact, not only consciously, but also in how their activity influences the basic biochemistry of your brain, which determines your thoughts and behavior.

So I think it is interesting to see people speak, while they are healthy and far from death, with such apparent surety about how they would want to deliberately end their own life, or have someone else do it. I don't think it will be that easy when the time comes, regardless of the circumstances; not at all. Not to mention the just plain weirdness of putting such morbid wishes down on paper. It's kinda, sorta like people who have their plot all bought and paid for, I guess.

"And I most absolutley do believe in euthanasia."

Under what circumstances?

You can have Dr Jack -- if and when he gets out of jail (personally, I don't think he belongs there) -- visit you and help you end your life, i.e. assisted suicide. I think this should be allowed (legal), although I think it is a very sad choice, and not without some risk of abuse. But I don't want a doctor or anyone else euthanizing unconscious people, no matter their medical condition, or what they may have stipulated beforehand. As a society, I just don't think we ought to go there. Think about it...

"an unbearable amount of pain"

They have medicine for pain, you know.

You still didn't answer the questions; no matter.

Finally, I am also still not sure what you think should've been done about Terri, other than you don't think starving her was the right thing to do. I don't think she had any sort of prearrangement about this; wasn't it just the claim of her husband that she would not have wanted to be kept alive in this condition? If it is no more than that, do you think he should've had the power or the right to put Terri to death, say by euthanasia (injection) rather than starving her? In such a case, i.e. where this is no prearrangement (although as I said above, for me it wouldn't matter, as assisted suicide is the only thing I would allow, and for that the patient has to be conscious), who should have the right and power to make such a decision? As I think you are no doubt honest enuf to admit, there are significant questions (problems) related to this, which is why I asked you about circumstances related to your belief in euthanasia. You see, IMO, this is the situation: The moral and ethical case against euthanasia is clear, while the moral and ethical aspects of support for euthanasia are very problematic, to say the least; you can see this, can't you?

"get along"

Relax kit.

Posted by: x on April 5, 2005 11:59 AM

As the parent of a disabled child, I find this whole story to be sad, both for Terri, her husband, and the whole family. But it was also a staunce example of the hypocrasy and ignorance of(sp?) the media, the republican party, the so-called "progressives" and everyone else who suddenly decided to become the self-proclaimed saviors for Terri and the disabled. Where are all these people when Governors and Presidents decide to gut the funding of social safety nets the disabled community would be devastated without?

If I could find the time to express my reasons more clearly and consisely, I would. Luckily I found an author who said it all for me. Below is an article I believe expresses all my feelings on this matter.

As far as I'm concerned, Sean Hannity, Jesse Jackson and all the other opportunistic yahoos can just GO TO HELL!!!!!

April 7, 2005

A Right to Health Care and a Right to Die
Tug of War with Terri Schiavo

Chicago, Illinois

All kinds of right-wing fanatics--anti-abortionists, "family values" blowhards, even neo-Nazi Bo Gritz--flocked to exploit the Terri Schiavo case. Their hypocrisy knew no bounds.

But in the days before Schiavo's death last week, some of the biggest news was made by people who consider themselves progressives. Rev. Jesse Jackson flew to Florida to pray with Terri Schiavo's parents, who wanted to keep their daughter attached to a feeding tube, and Ralph Nader wrote an article urging the courts to grant guardianship to the parents. Numerous advocates and activists for disabled rights showed up in the same ranks--many insisting that Michael Schiavo's decision to have his wife's feeding tube removed represented a wider threat of euthanasia against the disabled.

Sadly, their confusion of the medical facts of the Schiavo case and rhetoric about the "murder" of the disabled didn't promote a left-wing understanding of the issue, but helped the right wing spread its lies and capture more ideological ground.

The most obvious example of the right's advance is the emergency law passed by Congress and signed by George Bush, which paved the way for federal judges to intervene in the Schiavo case.

As it turned out, the federal courts--though packed by conservatives--didn't step in. But the law sets a further precedent in giving powers to the government--whether elected lawmakers, appointed judges, or government agencies--to pry into people's personal lives and decisions.

Progressives should be opposed to measures that give the government more powers to interfere with the personal choices of individual people. It doesn't take much imagination to see how the logic of "Terri's law" is connected to, for example, further restrictions on young women who want an abortion. And lawmakers are considering more far-reaching legislation modeled on "Terri's law"--with none other than liberal Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) pushing for its consideration, at the urging, he says, of disability rights groups.

* * *

ONE SYMPTOM of the confusion around the Schiavo case is that people who should know better accepted wholesale the right wing's ideologically loaded characterization of Terri Schiavo's condition as "disabled," with the possibilities of a recovery unknown. "Since when do we believe the doctors?" asked one writer on the Common Dreams Web site. "I thought we leftists were skeptical, even scornful, of the authority of mainstream medicine."

But this view is "scornful" of basic science. Every court-appointed doctor who examined Schiavo agreed that she was in a persistent vegetative state--also known, more bluntly, as "cortical death"--the result of a massive heart attack in 1990 that deprived her brain of oxygen.

The heavily edited videotapes showing Schiavo seeming to recognize people around her were deceptive. Such movements were reflexes governed by the brain stem, and not a sign of activity in the more advanced cerebral cortex.

Also deceptive were the moving anecdotes of disabled advocates about severely disabled individuals who suddenly and unexpectedly showed a dramatic improvement in their condition. Such stories have nothing to do with Terri Schiavo, though--essential parts of whose brain were known by doctors to have liquefied, making such a transformation impossible.

Another point common to the strange bedfellows in this case was the slander campaign against husband Michael Schiavo, who was basically accused of looking for an excuse to bump off his wife so he could keep her money.

In fact, after his wife's heart attack, Michael Schiavo went to great lengths to get help for her. "When doctors determined that Terri had entered a persistent vegetative state, Michael flew Terri to California for experimental surgical treatments, sleeping on a cot in her hospital room," reported ABC News. "Even after doctors in California determined surgery would do nothing to help Terri, Michael continued to seek help. He admitted Terri to a Florida brain-injury center and hired an aide to take her out to parks and museums, in the hope it might stimulate her reawakening. It didn't."

Only years later did Michael Schiavo change his mind and decide to honor what he--along with other witnesses--says was Terri Schiavo's request not to be kept alive in a vegetative state.

"I wish Michael had divorced Terri and let Terri's parents take over," wrote disabled rights activist Josie Byzek in one of the better commentaries on the controversy. But as Michael Schiavo told CNN interviewer Larry King, "This is Terri's wish, this is Terri's choice. And I'm going to follow that wish if it's the last thing I can do for Terri."

Another line of argument, which is given a feminist sheen, insists that the real issue should be Terri Schiavo's eating disorder, the likely cause of her heart attack in 1990. Once again, Michael Schiavo comes off the villain, criticized either for not recognizing his wife's illness, or for actually being its cause.

Is this really how progressives should understand the epidemic of eating disorders among young women? Should we blame the fathers and husbands of the estimated 4 percent of women in the U.S. who will suffer from bulimia in their lifetime? How about the mothers--should they share the blame?

Eating disorders deserve to be taken seriously as a terrible consequence of oppression in a society that treats people as things and objects, rather than as fully human. But the subject isn't being taken seriously when it comes up in this way in the Schiavo case.

* * *

AS WAS typical of the entire controversy, another separate, though related, issue got mangled into the debate--the question of assisted suicide, which has been legal in Oregon since 1997. Once again, many disabled rights activists responded with heated rhetoric about the threat this represented.

Given the terrible history of the treatment of the disabled in this country, there is perhaps some reason for these fears. But the record in Oregon should calm them. Studies have found no evidence of the poor, elderly or depressed being coerced into suicide. On the contrary, those who have opted to die tend to be well educated and well insured, and requests for help in dying have often led to patients getting better treatment for pain and other ameliorative care.

Why did so many advocates of disability rights ally themselves with right wingers who they disagree with on many other issues? Some commentators claim that the left is to blame, for shunning the disability rights movement. "Progressives should be better allies to them," wrote liberal blogger Zeynep Toufe. "The current alignment means that many in the disability rights community are forced to work with an outrageously hypocritical right-wing political machine."

Is there any evidence that this is true? The left has a proud record of standing up against injustices, including those suffered by the disabled. To take just one of many examples, in the mid-1990s, it was Newt Gingrich and the "Republican revolutionaries" who, with their Contract on America, set out to gut programs like Supplemental Security Income, which funds desperately needed aid for the severely disabled. It was progressives who made up the too-small ranks of those who protested.

Currently, the Bush administration has proposed a budget with the sharpest cuts to programs for the poor and workers in a quarter century--since the early days of Reaganism. The assault on the Medicare and Medicaid health systems--which provide the bare means of survival for many people--is a disaster for the disabled. This is the real threat to their lives.

* * *

THE EMOTIONAL response of those connected to the disability rights issue is understandable. The lack of care and resources for the disabled is a cruel fact of life in capitalist society.

The less severely disabled face big hurdles to live anything approaching a decent life and endure many misunderstandings in a society that is often miseducated about them. For the more severely disabled, family members and friends who bear the burden of caring for them go through outrageous hardships just to assert the basic right of their loved ones to survive.

But whether out of emotion or some other motivation, many disabled rights advocates have reacted to the Schiavo case and the related question of assisted suicide in a one-sided way.

All those who care about justice must support the demands of the disabled to gain respect and access to greater resources. But the other side of the question is the just claim of individuals who are terminally ill--or the loved ones of people being kept alive, with no hope of recovery--to make decisions about whether and how those lives should end.

There are issues involved in a decision about assisted suicide--including the fear of becoming an overwhelming financial and emotional burden on families--that would be handled quite differently in a more humane society. But in the circumstances of today's world, there are no simple answers. Progressives shouldn't be in the business of intruding on the painful, personal decisions that have to be made in such circumstances--much less giving aid and comfort to right wingers who want to impose their ideology on the rest of us.

"Before we take on the right to die too enthusiastically, let's make sure everyone has an equal right to live," wrote Naomi Jaffe on Common Dreams. This is a reasonable point. But why must the two things be seen as opposed? The answer is to organize for better health care, not to oppose assisted suicide or line up with right wingers in cases like Terri Schiavo's.

Every person deserves the right to quality health care and the right to make the most personal of choices--even the right to die--without the interference of any third party, including the government.

Alan Maass is the editor of Socialist Worker. He can be reached at: alanmaass@sbcglobal.net

Posted by: David Eccles on April 7, 2005 01:21 PM

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