Friday, April 01, 2005

Shaivo: A tale of selfishness and bigotry

There are some things the press will not say, though millions of people think, because they would consider those things too delicate. But I'm going to say what needs to be said.

The parents of Terri Schaivo have obtruded themselves into the news frame of the United States for reasons that are both selfish and ignorant. They have been wrong from day one. The various judges who got hauled into the fight for the 'cause' knew it, but were in too delicate a position to say so bluntly. And they also had extremely clear legal grounds for repeatedly refusing to authorize the re-connection of the feeding tube. See this excellent article from attorney Jacob Hornberger -
The Schiavo Case is NOT Judicial Murder

Terry Schaivo 'died' a long time ago. A raft of medical diagnosis and opinion pronounced her to be in a persistent vegetative condition. This means that although her body could function with minimal support, all consciousness and perception had gone. Terri's apparent signs of recognition and response came from automatic reflexes controlled by a part of the brain unrelated to true consciousness. Her brain was so damaged by past events and the ongoing state of bare existence that there was NEVER any hope of any kind of recovery whatsoever. It was not as though one day she might 'wake up' from a long coma; it was not as though she was conscious inside her head, trapped, but unable to communicate with the outside world except through occasional smiles and eyelid movement. Poor girl! But at least she was not 'there' to suffer, to 'fight', to make decisions, or 'want' anything. She was, very sadly, brain dead. Dead. On several occasions, before the onset of her medical episode 15 years ago, Terri clearly indicated to a variety of people that if she ever got into this state she would not want her life prolonged.

A family may hope for a while. But in the end reality has to set in. For what good reason would anyone keep a person like Terri artificially alive except for sheer selfishness and ignorance?

Forget love. Piffle! This had nothing to do with love, whatever the Schindlers might say. Love always knows when to let go; ignorance doesn't. Most families, at some point, eventually gather round the death bed of a dying relative. The time remaining may be short, or uncertain, but the reality of impending death is a factor they struggle with as best they may. Sometimes the judgement is that everything possible must be done to save the dying person. At other times, the reality is simple; we must all die at some time, and when that time comes love recognises it and prepares to let go. At that point love may lament and grieve with intense and unbearable emotion, but it still knows deep inside that it is time to let go. Love lets go. Only selfishness clings on.

As I write the Pope is dying. He rests in his room with a variety of ailments all of which are treatable at some point. But do we see cardinals petitioning the Rome judiciary to hear a case to have him rushed to the hospital to make more attempts to save his life? Is pressure being applied to the medical care teams to do more to preserve his life? Will they be sued if they don't? NO! For although millions of people love this Pope, they know it is time to let him go. Love does not selfishly insist on its own agenda against the best interests of the patient.

The Schindlers did not get this. Nor did Jeb Bush; nor his brother George Bush. Nor thousands of religious do-gooders possessed of a totally phoney concept of the sanctity of life. That's what makes them bigots.

But there were more reasons for the Schindlers (egged on by the coffin chasing lawyers) to sustain their fight. They felt they were locked into a no-holds barred fight with Terri's husband, Michael Schaivo. They had the bone between their teeth and they were not going to let go, for to have done so would be to let the much hated and villified husband WIN. And that would never do. They painted themselves, psychologically, into a corner from which they could not escape until Terri's body finally died. For them to give up was not to give up hope for Terri; it was rather to give up a fight against Michael Schaivo, against lawyers, politicians and judges. In this struggle Terri's vegetative body became merely a pawn, a symbol of a 'bigger struggle' for what the Schindlers and their ilk wish to call the 'right to life.' That made their struggle contemptible and their so-called concern for Terri, bogus.

Think about it Mr. and Mrs. Schindler. Think about it.

Does the law need to be changed? Does the consitution need to be amended? In both cases, probably not. Families and doctors have always figured out how to find a way. They do so every day and we do not hear about it because this is the private preserve of families, pastors and doctors.

The law gave the right to decide to the husband; and no matter what others may think of the cruel dilemma in which Michael Schaivo found himself, with dreadful moral choices to make at every turn, he at least had the clarity to make the right decision.

Think about it Mr. and Mrs. Schindler. Think about it. And if you are wise and humble enough, you may go away to do your grieving and healing. Then you may begin - if you can - a new life FREE of the hideous chains which have bound you to a lost cause for years.