Friday, October 31, 2003

Schiavo Case

Some days I'm embarrassed to be associated with conservatives, and the Schiavo case brings up one of those instances.

Terri Schiavo is the woman in a permanent vegetative state over whom the controversy is raging concerning whether or not she can be allowed to die.

It was never a question of whether or not Schiavo is aware of what's going on. It was never a case of whether her quality of life is good enough. It was never a case of what the family wanted, or what her husband wanted, or what the courts wanted, or what the public wanted. It all came down to just one question: What does she want?

Because the law has always found that all of us have the right to refuse medical treatment if we don't want it. And that includes even things like feeding and watering. We have that right, the right to refuse care, and no one should be allowed to take that away from us as long as that truely is our wish. We have that right without regard to what anyone else thinks of our quality of life.

I don't know of a more bedrock solid conservative principle that that -- the principle of personal sovereignty and autonomy.

Since she is not able to tell us what she wants herself we've got to rely on other people to tell us what she, as a person, wants based on what they know about her.

Schiavo's husband has been consistent for 13 years in saying that his wife never would have wanted to be kept alive this way. The courts have gone through hours and hours of deliberation and testimony, and the courts decided that it was indeed true that she would want to refuse treatment in this situation that she's in. Perhaps more than anything else, they agreed with that because it is such a reasonable decision.

You can argue now about whether it's appropriate for the husband to be "making this decision". You can smear him and claim that he's doing it for selfish reasons. But remember that he was never really relied upon by the courts to make any such decision. What he did was tell the doctors and the courts what he thought she wanted, and the courts decided that he was correct about that after carefully weighing all the facts including any facts that would indicate a conflict of interest on his part. The courts didn't decided this on a whim or out of a sense of guilt based on their own personal experience, but based on the facts of her life and after weighing a lot of other testimony from other people who knew her prior to her illness as well.

I suspect that her parents just can't stand to see her die. They have contested the idea that their daughter would want to die in this situation, but the courts have concluded that they are mistaken about that. More than anything it has become a contest of wills between them on one side and the husband and the courts on the other. They have fought for custody and lost, they have fought to overturn the court's decisions about her care and lost. So these parents have gone complaining to everyone who will listen.

And so now the idiot talk radio people and the idiots in the Florida legislature and that idiot Jeb Bush have waded into the matter and destroyed the results of what is probably hundreds of hours of careful and thoughtful deliberation made in good faith. They have taken it upon themselves to take any vestige of personal autonomy and dignity away from her. I can forgive radio jocks for being stupid enough to be caught up in this, but Bush and the Lesgislature ought to know better.

In a since it doesn't matter because they are not really dealing with a person in the body of this woman. I've seen a number of people in her situation, and, believe me, she's not really there anymore. There is not enough of a brain left to process any information. There is no perception. It's just a collection of reflexes. I don't care what people think they see on the videos. The lights are on, people, and their ain't nobody home. There's no quality of life there because there's really no life. There's no one there to feel pain or anything else.

If the Florida legislature wants to keep this vegetable alive out of a ghoulish desire to pander to faux populists and assuage their mistaken sense of morality, then fine. Fine, fine, fine.

I just hope to God that they don't treat me this way if I end up in her condition, with my pathetic, mindless body as their warm trophy.