Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Tough Cookies

I'm sure that most people are probably sick to death of hearing about the Terri Schiavo case.

Tough cookies, 'cause I'm fascinated by it.

I've spent every morning this week reading about Schiavo's parents' legal defeats and subsequent lightning-quick appeals. I knew there was something disturbing me about the case--or, at least, the case as I am able to access it through the media--and it wasn't until I read this Salon.com article that I was able to put my finger on it directly.

Everyone I've spoken to about Terri Schiavo's right to die has communicated to me exactly what the ABC poll cited in Eric Boehlert's article states: that Americans do not want to be kept alive by extraordinary means. Yet further than that, in a case where life-support alone is preserving a "persistently vegitative" individual, Americans overwhelmingly believe that a person's spouse should have the right to make the decision to let them die.

In this particular case, Terri Schiavo explicitly told her husband on several occasions that she would not want to be kept alive artificially. Her husband held out hope for her recovery for a number of years, and when doctors assured him that such a recovery was impossible he chose to grant her wishes and allow her to die on the terms she had personally laid out.

A vast percentage of Americans polled cite Mr. Schiavo's very course of action as the way they would respond in this situation; mathematically, this majority seems to affirm that fulfilling a spouse's request to pass on naturally is in line with the "moral values" espoused by the "culture of life" segment of the American people.

Not a single article I've read until this morning quoted any of the number of polls Boehlert cited--polls that are widely available to news agencies. In reading article after article about the case, I did begin to question where my beliefs fell on the continuum of attitudes towards euthanasia when I had nothing to compare them to.

Not that I look to see a right-wing plot around every corner, but one has to wonder how these polls have neglected make it into virtually every major newspaper in the country. I can only speak from personal experience, but as I pretty avidly consumed news pieces about the Schiavo case and had no barometer of public opinion to measure my stance, I began to worry that my belief that Terri should be allowed to die was extreme, or even cruel. The media has denied people an accurate representation of public opinion while publishing photographs of right-to-life protestors on countless newspaper covers, which is a really effective way to shake the confidence of any individual willing to say "yes, let her die."

But besides that, the case is fascinating legally. I knew that Congress had intervened and passed a law which somehow gave Schiavo's parents the right to circumvent the Florida justice system and sue in a federal court.

What I didn't realize was that the law, signed into effect yesterday, says word for word that "any parent of Therese Marie Schiavo" has the right to take the case to federal court.

Call me a creative-writing-major-who-never-had-to-take-a-single-law-class, but it seems to me it may be a smidge unconstitutional (or illegal? at the very least, unethical) for the government to sign into effect personalized laws.

This is a great land. You can get almost anything with your name on it. As I child I owned both pens and pencils emblazoned with my moniker. I also had a "Kathy" eraser or two, a "Kathy" bracelet, some "Kathy" stationary, a tiny "Kathy" license plate for my bike, and an airbrushed powder blue "Kathy" t-shirt from my very first trip to Daytona Beach.

This whole law thing, though, this is blazing new personalized territory. I'm thinking about proposing a bill that states the following:

All persons named Katharine Maria Cacace, born on the fifteenth day of September, 1982, are legally required to be accompanied to any and all places of employment, entertainment, or residence by a troop of attractive, witty men. Expenses incurred by Ms. Cacace's troop will be funded through the Social Security Trust, because we're lettin' it go to shit anyway.

It's only fair that Georgie signs off on this one. Kindergarten rules apply, here; if you don't have enough time to sign stupid personalized laws into effect for everyone, then don't sign any at all.

4 Comments:

Anonymous brad said...

i'm a senator, and a magical one at that, so i'll take your bill and make it a law. if schoolhouse rock taught me anything, it's that i am a senator and anything i say is science-fact. also, if i end up like The Schiavo, feel free to let me go deadward. this is my official testament, notarized by me since i'm a senator (and a magical one at that).

12:23 PM  
Blogger Kunaxa said...

Tell it like it is K.

I hesitantly wrote about this one yesterday, because it was just too much, and it was everywhere ... but what set me off was the Vatican issuing a statement/ directive(?) to "SPARE TERRI'S LIFE" ...OK!

I think the latest I heard was that it's up to Supreme Court level now (About Time) - and I actually didn't know this about U.S. law ... but the Supreme court can actually say ... "No, we don't wanna hear this case."

Also, some Florida woman got arrested for taking a bottle of water into the hospice in attempt to feed Schiavo... think about that one.

12:44 PM  
Blogger Buckley said...

I read with interest your article and your links and was extra pissed-off by having to sit through an interactive add for Visa to get on to Salon.com - but i'll not get tangental, I'm here to rant about something else:

You mention your position as being either extreme or cruel, and in fact Kathy I'm about to tell you that I think it is. I don't think this because I would ever for a moment keep someone artificially alive without hope of recovery by force-feeding them with tubes which have their own painful iatrogenic side-effects anyway, but because sadly, even the position of non-feasance (i.e. that she be 'let' die) I think is also unnecessarily cruel. It's a very sad thing that this woman has to starve to death when your country would think it cruel to do likewise to a criminal on death row. Why on earth can they not administer a poison to make her passing less protracted?

This of course is a rhetorical question, to which I am all too aware of the answer, but I think that this should be made a medical option. In Ireland we have set a similar precedent to Florida in 1994 (in a case where the person was in fact not in a full PVS!) which follows a UK case of the previous year.

I don't remember any hoo-ha over those cases, but in both of those cases, the family were in agreement and it was the doctors who thought they were on rocky legal footing.

Great article anyway Kathy, and for what my opinion is worth (and despite the fact I'm usually all for mixin it up) I'd like to see a return of the eye-shot in the profile picture. It's so mysterious and sexy - and if ain't broke...

7:28 AM  
Blogger What'sHerFace said...

Hiya, Buckley,

Well put. Terri Schiavo (and anyone else in a similiar medical state) should not only have the right to die, but the right to die painlessly. I was just so caught up in thinking about her passing on that I hadn't even considered the circumstances--I think I stuck "feeding tube" under the general "life support" category, which, to my discredit, I conveniently thought about in terms of removing a ventilator, which causes a much more imminent death.

Anyway, today I heard on the morning news that several (not just one) person has been removed from her hospital for trying to bring her water. Do they not understand the point of a feeding tube? What were they planning on doing with the water?

-Kathy

P.S. Thanks, I actually kind of agree with you about the old picture. So much for variety.

9:21 AM  

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