Monday, March 21, 2005

right to die with dignity

Every once in a while I feel the need to get up on my soapbox and editoralize on events. Today is one of those days.

Unless you've been living in a cave and haven't been keeping up with the news, which happes to me from time to time, you've heard about the legal battles concerning the fate of Terri Schiavo. If you haven't, there are plenty news stories for you to catch up on the whole thing. This Yahoo article is the one am specifically reading while writing this.

Yesterday afternoon, Schaivo's feeding/hydration tube was removed, in accordance with a federal court's ruling, and despite Republican lawmakers' desperate legal efforts to keep the tube in place. With the removal of the life support of the feeding tube, thus begins the 1-2 week process of Schavio's body dying.

What truly horrifies me about this entire situation is the behavior of the Republican Party throughout this ordeal. They are being bullies, trying to impose their morality on individuals through any means at their disposal. Schaivo's husband is trying to exercise his authority as Schaivo's legal guardian by removing her from life support, due to her "persistent vegetative state". There's a reason it's called a "vegetative state", a person in such a state has the same higher brain fuction as a stalk of broccoli. It is perfectly legal for a guardian to remove such a person from live support, to allow the husk of a body to die, since the mind no longer exists.

M. Schaivo is fully within his rights to have the feeding tube removed from T. Schaivo. He claims that prior to the episode that left her in the vegetative state, his wife told him she would not want to be kept alive in such a situation. T. Schaivo's parents, who are not her legal guardians, claim not that she would want to be kept alive, but that she could with proper care get better. They are also using their Roman Catholic beliefs as justification for trying to wrest legal guardianship from T. Schaivo's husband by appealing to Republican politicians. T. Schaivo's parents have no legal standing in trying to keep her feeding tube in place, so they are trying to get the law changed to suit their desires.

This battle between Schaivo and his in-laws has been going on for 15 years now. Through that entire time, T. Schaivo has remained in the same state. She shows reflexive brain function only, no signs of any sort of higher brain function. Yes, she can breathe on her own, she can also track and object with her eyes, and most likely responds to painful stimuli (such as withdrawing from the pain, i.e. pulling a hand away that is pinched), but those are reflexes, no higher brain function is required. Even tracking a moving object with the eyes is a reflex, our brains are designed to see movement better than a static scene, it's hardwired into our brains, we do it without having to think about it.

The fact that Governor Bush, the Florida Legislature, Congress, and President Bush are all willing and more than happy to interfere in what should be a very private matter scares the hell out of me. Lawmakers have no right to dictate the manner in which a person lives or dies, no right to invade the private lives of citizens. Republicans are trying to demonize and make illegal a legal act - withdrawing the life-support of an individual in a vegetative state at the request of the person's legal guardian. T. Schaivo's parents are no longer her legal guardians, that changed when she got married. She would have had to filed a Power of Attorney or a similar legal document to have her parents be her legal guardian and not her husband.

M. Schaivo is the legal guardian of T. Schaivo, and her parents should accept that fact. They are trying to justify their actions based on their personal religious faith, T. Schaivo would want what they want, despite M. Schaivo's position that he best knows what his wife would want. T. Schaive would not be the first person in history to as an adult adopt different moral/ethical/religious views than those of the parents and what he/she grew up with. Why is so inconceivable to T. Schaivo's parent that she would as an adult hold different religious/ethical views than they do?

In the end, everyone who has interferred with M. Schaivo's decision to remove his wife from life support should be ashamed of themselves, especially at this point. The case has already been before a judge numerous times, and M. Schaivo's position as the legal guardian has been upheld each time. There is no reason for this to continue in the legal system, and definitely no reason for Congress or the President to get involved. At this point it is bullying and harassment, plain and simple. It is the conservatives trying to impose thier standards and ethics on the rest of us, against our will, and you should be mad as hell about it.

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