Another look at Schiavo Pt 1.

May 14, 2005 at 4:20 PM (Terri Schiavo)

The above links directly to an article from an early April Boston Globe Op-Ed by Cathy Young. I didn’t feel I could answer it correctly without extensive quoting. Her remarks are in quotes, my response is in brackets.

“Quite a few Republicans are worried that their party is now acting as the mere political arm of the religious right. Those who sought to ‘save” Schiavo bristle at this argument, pointing out that their cause was also championed by people who are neither right-wing nor particularly religious — most notably, the disability rights groups that joined in the effort to prevent Schiavo’s death.”
[And there is little doubt in my mind that we as a constituency were ‘used’ because our legitimate concerns made us helpful bedfellows at the time, but the right has walked right back into gutting the RSA and Medicaid, showing what their real hope for the disabled was…that we’d just crawl under the rug and go ‘way.]
“…It is also worth noting that some disability rights advocates have their own brand of extremism: They don’t simply seek dignity and
[Oh, yes of course. We couldn’t possibly need more protections than just “dignity” and “access.” Lawsy no. ]
“but define themselves as an oppressed minority, turning disability into a cultural and political identity.”
[First, I believe there have been people with disabilities doing just that since before 1973. It’s 2005. We are working, traveling, marrying and having children, and enjoying leisure life because someone else with a disability had the understanding that there are many commonalities in the social and economic barriers we suffer, just as our individual needs for “access” differ. These disabled people then went out and did something about that so that the *word* “access” would get closer to the reality of access we all seek. Secondly (she said with an arch look at the author) we’re extremists now, because we self-identify as the separate invisible class that we have been all along? ]

” Such radicals blasted the late Christopher Reeve because, after the accident that left him paralyzed, he focused on promoting the search for a cure for spinal cord injuries. Some in the disabled community berated the actor for being unable to ‘accept disability” and sending a ‘disability is bad” message.”
[I’ll admit I’m personally not comfortable opposing someone because their focus is on a cure, but acceptance is infinitely more positive and possible then all of us wasting all of our time standing by the scientist’s table (or worse, the faith healer’s altar) and saying, “hurry up, I need a cure.”
There’s life to be lived while cures are pursued, and that is more important to many of us than the cure itself.]

“The disability rights activists are particularly incensed by the notion that life with severe disabilities can sometimes be a fate worse than death: To them, it’s a way of saying that their lives are not worth living. Their anger is understandable,”

[I thank the noted contributor for her pearl of wisdom sent down from on high. I invite her to call me when she’s over 65 and her anger is dismissed because it’s just an old woman talking.]

“…Though it can also be harshly judgmental toward those who do prefer death to prolonged incapacitation and suffering.”

[As long as the person preferring death is someone who came to that place through no monetary, religious, insurance carrier or legal pressures, I’m fine with it. Anytime the outside source pushes that because the money’s gone, or the coverage just ain’t there, or because their version of God said so, that is coercion and duress, and I will oppose any such movement to die mightily.]

” But in championing Schiavo’s survival, the activists have taken the extra step of radically expanding the definition of disability to include a permanent vegetative state. Schiavo had no consciousness; she was not a woman with ‘cognitive disabilities,” as some asserted, not a patient in need of therapy and rehabilitation (therapy had been aggressively pursued, and eventually abandoned as clearly futile). Her life was not ‘unworthy”; it simply wasn’t, in any meaningful sense, a life.
Both disability rights activists and conservative champions of a ‘culture of life” warn that by accepting Schiavo’s death, we are heading down a slippery slope toward euthanizing anyone in a wheelchair or in need of artificial feeding.
There are sincere and valid concerns that the ‘right to die” may become a ‘duty to die” for those seen as a burden to society or to their families.”

[I cannot speak for any other activists but myself, but I say this:
My concern about the Schiavo case goes far far beyond Terri herself. A decision like this opens the door for abuse of right to die legislation. Dismissing the concerns because Terri herself was not sentient means minimizing and marginalizing discourse on what to do about someone just as uncommunicative as Terri was who made no living will, but is still alert and sentient at the time of death. We have to talk about those folks before it becomes economically and emotionally expedient to pull their feeding tubes just as Terri’s was pulled.]

“But equally valid, and equally important, are concerns about being trapped in undead bodies ghoulishly sustained by technologies that did not exist a generation ago.”
[For those people, I say that the Schiavo case means one and one thing only. Make a living will so that you will not be trapped.
It’s a simple and logical solution. This article seems to be saying that : In order to make sure that the people who didn’t think ahead and didn’t write things down, still get their tubes withdrawn and their machines turned off, we will cater to their lack of planning and in so doing open the door for possible future abuses.]

“Something else is worth pointing out. It’s true that not all those who wanted to keep Schiavo alive were religious zealots. It is equally true that many people of faith supported the removal of Schiavo’s feeding tube. … I am an agnostic, but I would like to believe that we have a soul, a divine spark inside us; and it seems to me that there is nothing more degrading to human dignity, nothing more antilife, than to prolong the physical existence of a body from which that spark is gone.”

[Then before you do that, carry with you the scientific certainty that you know for a fact that it is gone.]

“Well, I can think of a few things to feel passionate about. I feel passionately that I would never want to see someone I love linger on in Terri Schiavo’s condition; and if, God forbid, I ever have to make that decision, I don’t want Congress or the president or Jerry Falwell or Jesse Jackson sticking their nose in it. I am equally certain that I would not want to be kept alive in such a state. Our personal autonomy is at stake — and, believe it or not, some of us get rather passionate about it.”

[Passion, Ms. Young, is all well and good for the cameras. If someone feels this passionately about it, then stop with the passion and start with the earnest conversations with your loved ones *before * you and they are terminal or in an accident and get it written down and notarized and put a copy in a safe place. You have the education and the erudition that I daresay you wouldn’t be caught dead without a will, the deed to your home or your driver’s license. A living will is just as important as your social security card when you turn eighteen.
If living wills were made a requirement at everyone’s 18th birthday with an opportunity to change them at anytime thereafter, we wouldn’t have to have this wrenching debate. Those who believe that life should persist past sentience can write it down, and those who wouldn’t even want a day with a feeding tube, whether awake and alert or not, can also write it down and deprive us of their presence a bit early….
And everyone in between can make their wishes known as well.]

1 Comment

  1. Three years of MidlifeandTreachery: A top ten « Midlife And Treachery said,

    […] A one and two parter on Terri Schiavo. […]

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