Along the Tracks

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Just doing what it’s good at, part 2

This time, it’s the Toledo Blade (from yesterday’s opinion pages), exuding self-righteousness, claiming omniscience and insulting the broken-hearted.

First, the editors speak from on high:

“The knee-jerk ignorance of the Florida legislature and governor's office in pushing for the reinsertion of a feeding tube in Terri Schiavo mocks the respect they say they have for life.”

How’s this for a kick in the teeth:

“Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, as much in denial as an alcoholic in a bar, sought the political intervention.”

No Blade pronouncement on morality is complete without a patently false appraisal of the situation in question:

“Their (the parents’) intentional blindness, as self-punishing as it is painful to Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband, could affect everyone's freedom to choose or reject life support.”

Where to begin? Let’s start with our “freedom to choose.” The issue in the Terri Schiavo case is precisely that she did not choose - either life or death. Thus arose a disagreement between poor Michael and the parents. Even with those differences, this case still would not have gained national attention, were it not for the financial and personal conflicts of interest, inconclusive expert opinions and repeated blatant lies by the husband.

Tell us, Blade editors, does poor Michael feel the angst of this situation while lying in bed with a woman other than his wife?

And how, exactly, are Terri’s parents “intentional(ly) blind” because they believe their daughter’s life has a purpose, while poor Michael sees so clearly that Terri is better off dead? I’m sure all Blade editors have doctorates in neurophysiology, ethical philosophy and theology, but even with these credentials, it is doubtful Blade editors have the capacity to do a Vulcan mind-meld with Terri, read her emotions and thoughts, and therefore deem her life unworthy of a feeding tube.

A few insults directed at politicians, a few one-sided “medical” notes to bolster their case, and the Blade editors are ready to pull the plug.

“People who have loved a person ought to be able to console one another that his or her dying was not needlessly prolonged. The message of Terri Schiavo's sorry ending - and it is sure to come soon - is that it's never too early to talk to family members and loved ones about how one wants and doesn't want to live or die. A deathbed or a funeral is no place for tension and hostility.”

My how the Blade editors find it easy to sweep all presumed suffering into one inevitable dustbin of death. We’re not talking about Grandma’s cancer or Uncle Ted’s Parkinson’s disease here - the only way Terri dies next week rather than 25 years from now is if we deny her food and water. The same could be said of you or me, right now, sick or healthy. Take away my nourishment, and my death won’t be “needlessly prolonged” for another few decades either.

The claim that Terri’s ending is “sure to come soon” assumes once again that we deny her the basics of life we all need. It is only “sorry” precisely because she has made no choice, and has no advocate with her own needs foremost in mind. The only valuable point in this entire “sorry” editorial is that everyone should make clear their wishes concerning how far medical treatment should continue, should we lose the ability to express our own feelings at the time. Even here, the Blade editors fail to mention the crucial document which would make this decision clear: a living will.

The Blade editors apparently don’t want to risk the possibility that someone might state emphatically they want to live in such a condition.

A final thought. People who “come back from death” most commonly describe their experience as one of profound happiness and peace - something they didn’t want to leave, but were “pulled back” by medical intervention or sent back by some unknown force. Isn’t it logical to assume those who are in “persistent vegetative states” experience “life” in ways similar to those on the edge of death, rather than “suffering” like those who are conscious, responsive and capable of feeling pain? Why is the default assumption always that those who are in comas or even more fully without brain function are “suffering”?

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