What Else Is In Scott's Head?

The blog site for writer Scott C. Smith. Some observations on the world we live in and life in general. And maybe some politics.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Politicizing of Terri Schiavo

Not surprisingly, the Terri Schiavo case has turned yet again into a conservative vs. Liberal debate. Conservatives claim liberals want Terri Schiavo to die. Which is ridiculous. Yet it seems conservatives en masse have suddenly become life-long friends to Terri Schiavo and her family, presuming to know what conversations she may have or not have with her husband, Michael, who says Schiavo did not want to be kept alive on life support. Of course, the conservative pundits have seized on the subject of "life support," claiming Schiavo is not on life support (Michelle Malkin makes this point in her syndicated column). However, she cannot eat or drink on her own.

So, Republican leaders this past weekend did what they could to overturn court decisions made in Florida. And in doing so they not only created a false hope for Schiavo's parents that, due to Republican influence, the courts would rule in their favor to have Terri Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted. That has not happened. A federal judge in Florida and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court in Atlanta also ruled that the tube could not be reinserted. The next possible step would be to send the case to the Supreme Court for review -- although, in the past, the Supreme Court has declined to intervene in this case. The idea is that, since a federal court decision is being appealed, rather than a state court, the Supreme Court might be more willing to take the case.

Democrats who did not support the idea of Congress interfering in what should be a state matter are being accused of basically murdering Terri Schiavo.

And, in the blogosphere, conservative bloggers are attacking liberal bloggers for the same reason.

Republicans, arrogantly, assumed they could decide Terri Schiavo's fate by flexing the arm of big government, and conservatives everywhere apparently have developed psychic powers in divining what they think Terri Schiavo's wishes were prior to 1990, when a chemical imbalance caused her heart to stop, resulting in brain damage.

It's curious that Republicans did not step in when Schiavo's breathing tube was removed in 2001 and 2003. Yet now, all of the sudden, they believe they are better capable of dealing with the case than the state of Florida. It must help that Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, is the brother of President George W. Bush. Both men want the feeding tube reinserted.

I understand that this is a very emotional issue. But it's a private, family issue, between Schiavo's parents, Mary and Bob Schindler, and Schiavo's husband, Michael Schiavo. I know that people have strong opinions in this situation, bute ngaging in back-and-forth attacks between liberals and conservatives is not going to keep Terri Schiavo alive, or to allow her to die, as her husband claims was her wish before 1990.

Surely most couples, at some point in their relationship, discuss what their wishes are in the event of any kind of trauma or accident that results in being kept alive artificially. And while the best course of action following such a conversation would be the preparation of a living will, if an accident happened before the living will was written, I would expect my spouse to carry out my instructions as far as keeping me alive or not. I would not want any branch of government to interfere with my wishes.

One has to wonder if there are other motives in play here. The case is a win-win for Republicans: if Terri Schiavo's feeding tube is reinserted, they will have appeased the religious Right; if she dies, they could use that against Democrats who did not support Congressional intervention.

ABC News reported on March 21 of a memo distributed to Republican members of Congress. The memo states, in part (with emphasis added):

"Teri (sic) Schiavo is subject to an order that her feeding tubes will be disconnected on March 18, 2005 at 1p.m.

The Senate needs to act this week, before the Budget Act is pending business, or Terri's family will not have a remedy in federal court.

This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue.

This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats.

That's compassionate conservatism for you: the fate of Terri Schiavo is a "great political issue."

This is not a great political issue. It's heart wrenching, and I feel badly for everyone involved. I wouldn't want my family and my wife pitted against each other to decide if I should live or die. And I definitely do not want the federal government interfering. It's not for them to decide.

There are no easy answers. Whatever the outcome, someone will be hurt or affected, whether it's Schiavo's husband or Schiavo's parents. It's not up to me to decide Terri Schiavo's fate, nor is it up to Congress to decide. This is a private, family decision to make, and it should be kept private.


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