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Monday, March 21, 2005

Can we have some spine?

As if I had any doubts, the actions of Congress and the President have proven to me that there is no such thing as a Conservative in the Republican Party. Worse (I actually never really favored Conservatives anyway), there is no one with a brain left in their head to actually think through the ramifications of what they are making law.
I must again claim willing ignorance in the case of Terry Schiavo. Simply put, I have too many other things going on to dig into her life. I do know that she is being kept alive by a feeding tube, but can breathe on her own. I’m not sure exactly what is medically considered “a continually vegetative state” or whatever they want to call it this week.
What I see is a Republican Party that is going to great lengths to extend their power into the personal lives of families. My wife and I have discussed what we want to happen should we be unable to be healed and return to a full life – we both want our physical life to be terminated. The Republican Party, however, believes that my wife and I are unable to make such a determination. Apparently, my wife and I will have to hire an attorney 24/7 to make sure all of our discussions are properly documented for future litigation.
The problem with the Republican Party “defending life” to this extreme is that they simply are not thinking about what it means beyond this case. If Terry Schiavo has a right to her life, even if she doesn’t want it, then every other person on earth has the same right to the life they do want. For the federal government to step in now only makes sense if they are ready to step into every single life and guarantee that no one every goes hungry or without medical care. This expense of this proposition is staggering.
The problem is also that it fails to address two propositions that might actually make the case about a humanitarian effort. The first one is that there is no way a doctor can legally hasten Mrs. Schiavo’s death. Rather than granting her the same humane death that the State of Florida uses to execute heinous criminals, she must starve to death. Why should a man who kidnaps, rapes, tortures, and kills a seven-year-old girl be granted greater mercy than a woman whose only fault was a dietary imbalance and no immediate access to health care?
The second is the possibility that human stem cells might hold a cure for Mrs. Schiavo. My understanding is that her cerebral cortex is damaged. One of the possible uses for stem cells is to rebuild such damage. How can we say that Mrs. Schiavo has a right to live, but not a right to a treatment that would help her become fully functional? Again, a man who kidnaps, rapes, tortures, and kills a seven-year-old girl will be offered rehabilitative care if he is injured in prison – why should an innocent woman be any different?
The only reasonable answer to these questions is that they don’t really care about Mrs. Schiavo as a person – they only care about her as a cause. Anyone who really didn’t want to see her suffer would seek either her full rehabilitation or her merciful death. There is no reasonable way to defend the idea that she can die – but only through the most painful method available.
To argue that the legislation only applies to this case is simply false as well. If the government’s ability to interfere in this case is upheld, then it holds that right for every case. The only question that remains is how to determine to which cases it should apply.
I understand that it must be hard to let go of your child – and I pray that I never have to make that decision. I don’t blame Mrs. Schiavo’s parents any more than I do Mr. Schiavo. Both are simply trying to do what they believe someone they love would want. I do blame, first the Florida legislature and governor, and now the federal Congress and President for not having the personal strength to look into the family’s eyes and say, “I agree with you, but this is not a case for the federal government.”
Strength of character, it seems, is still in short supply in Washington.

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