Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

March 25, 2005

Feminists, Burqas, and Terri Schiavo

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:59 pm

Romaryka at Incidents and Accidents has a very compelling post about the issues and uncertainties in the Schiavo case, and the role of faith in forming people’s opinions on the issue. In passing, and perhaps without quite meaning to (incidentally and accidentally?), she explains why this case is so newsworthy, and is attracting so much more attention that other events in which many more lives are at stake:

[S]tarving her to death is not the answer. As I type that sentence I find myself marveling at the fact that I am sitting before my computer, in North America, in 2005, putting that thought into words. That I live in a nation whose legal system has been vaunted and studied and flaunted as a model before the rest of the world, and yet it actually comes down to the country’s populace and representation taking sides on the ethics of starving a woman to death.

(Emphasis in the original.)

She also points out one of the major (apparent?) hypocrisies this case has brought out into the open:

In one women’s studies class I read an article about the plight of women under the Taliban, and the headline was “Afghan Woman Stoned to Death For Not Wearing Veil.” I have read about human-rights violations, specifically against women, the world over, and the stories incite the international community to start letter-writing campaigns and hold peaceful vigils. We all seem to agree, with varying degrees of activity or involvement, that these global incidents are abominations. Here’s a headline : “American Woman Starved to Death For Having Brain Damage.” Where are the global activists? Where are the feminists? What happens the next time a husband decides he wants the courts to help his wife die?

And why this case is so important, going far beyond the life of one woman or one family:

Don’t imagine this case doesn’t set a precedent. Once we start deciding who deserves to live and who doesn’t, where do we stop? How do we stop? Part of my silence [up to now] on the issue, aside from not knowing quite what to believe with all the strong words out there, has come from sheer disbelief that we have come to this.

But we have. And I will probably horrify her by quoting this individual in response (and I wouldn’t mention his name except for the obligation to give credit where credit is due), but Rush Limbaugh once said in a simlar context: “Once we start to decide who lives and who dies based on convenience to the living, there is no end to it.”

And indeed there is not. We will soon — perhaps very soon — see people put to death because caring for them is “too expensive,” regardless of their wished or their families’ wishes, and perhaps even regardless of their willingness to pay those costs. We have already seen a 6-month-old pulled off a ventilator over his parents’ objections in part due to costs, a man nearly pulled off a feeding tube and ventilator over his wife’s objections, and serious proposals for killing newborns found to have hemophilia, an inconvenient — but non-debilitating and often non-fatal — disease.

As far back as 1984, then-Governor of Colorado Richard Lamm said that older people have “a duty to die and get out of the way with all of our machines and artificial hearts — and everything else like that and let the other society, our kids, build a reasonable life.” His policy proposal is that after a certain age, people shouldn’t get any health care. Just a few weeks ago, the New York Times said essentially the same thing.

In the past few decades, we have gone from an so-obvious-it’s-unspoken consensus on preserving life, to allowing DNRs and “living [that is, dying] wills” for people with terminal and painful diseases, to DNRs and “living wills” for people with non-terminal but painful diseases, to routinely killing newborns (not to mention aborting fetuses) found to be “defective” and old people — or even not-so-old people — found to be neither terminal nor in pain, but unable to express their wishes to the contrary. (And some people who have expressed their wishes to the contrary are sedated to make sure they express those wishes again.)

When my wife and I were discussing this a few days ago, she — who always oppsed so-called “slippery slope” arguments said, “It really is a slippery slope.” If so, we’ve already slipped all the way down to the bottom and have begun to dig. It is only a matter of time until courts and hospital “ethics” committees routinely decide who lives and who dies, without regard to the wishes of the patient or any members of the patient’s family. They will evaluate your “quality of life” and decide whether you are worth taking up a spot on the planet. In the Schiavo case, they are purporting to take her wishes into account, and are actually choosing the wishes of her husband over all her other family members. But that’s this time. In other cases, they ignore the family’s wishes as well, and soon this will become routine.

Ralph Nader calls for Terri to Live

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:07 pm

I never thought I’d find myself on the same side as Ralph Nader on anything, but as they say, “when there’s life, there’s hope.” What’s even more amazing, perhaps, is who the joint statement is with.

Ralph Nader and Wesley J. Smith have issued a joint statement calling for the Florida courts and Governor Jeb Bush to let Terri Schiavo live.

“A profound injustice is being inflicted on Terri Schiavo,” Nader and Smith asserted today. “Worse, this slow death by dehydration is being imposed upon her under the color of law, in proceedings in which every benefit of the doubt-and there are many doubts in this case-has been given to her death, rather than her continued life.”

Among the many injustices in this case, Nader and Smith point to the following:

The courts not only are refusing her tube feeding, but have ordered that no attempts be made to provide her water or food by mouth. Terri swallows her own saliva. Spoon feeding is not medical treatment. “This outrageous order proves that the courts are not merely permitting medical treatment to be withheld, it has ordered her to be made dead,” Nader and Smith assert.

The medical and rehabilitation experts are split on whether Terri is in a persistent vegetative state or whether Terri can be improved with therapy. There is only one way to know for sure- permit the therapy. That is the only way to resolve all doubts.

The court is imposing process over justice. After the first trial in this case, much evidence has been produced that should allow for a new trial-which was the point of the hasty federal legislation. If this were a death penalty case, this evidence would demand reconsideration. Yet, an innocent disabled woman is receiving less justice.

The federal and state governments are spending billions on what we are told will become miracle medical cures for people with all sorts of degenerative conditions, including brain damage. If this is so, why not permit Terri’s parents and siblings who want to care for her do so in the hope that such cures are discovered?

Remember this next time someone claims it’s just right-wingers, pro-lifers and Republicans who want to save Terri.

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