Sunday, March 20, 2005 at 11:28 AM
For a very long time, I was resigned in the settled belief that my acute disdain for American politics inured me to insults by American politicians. But yesterday that belief was shattered to smithereens by the sanctimonious and Machiavellian antics of Republican and Democrat members of Congress over the Schiavo family’s tragic dilemma.
As of the time of this posting, an unusually bipartisan Congress is poised to impose the awesome weight of the American government on one side against the other in this family dispute that would defy even the wisdom of a divinely inspired King Solomon.
The undisputed facts are as follows:
Terri Schiavo has been in a persistent vegetative state for over 15 years. Her husband and friends claim that, before she became terminally incapacitated, Mrs Schiavo told them that she would never want to depend on extraordinary means (like the feeding tube now being used) to sustain her life. However, Mrs Schiavo never executed a living will expressing her wishes under such circumstances.
Mrs Schiavo’s doctors have determined that she has no chance of recovery from her fatally brain-damaged state. Her husband wants to remove her feeding tube and let her die, but her parents want her extraordinary care to persist indefinitely.
A judge, after weighing all of the facts and circumstances involved, decided that the husband’s duty to honor his wife’s intent should prevail.
There are simply too many genuine points in conflict to be absolutely certain of anything in this case. Nevertheless, I am convinced that the imposition of Congressional fiat is ill-advised, at best. Indeed, what Republicans and Democrats have already done is demonstrate the unscrupulous willingness of politicians to trample any sacred or personal right to further their political agenda. Just consider for a moment the self-righteous and abusive act of issuing a subpoena for Mrs Schiavo’s “testimony” before Congress.
Democrats have cravenly abandoned all of their “principled” right to privacy arguments and joined the “pro life” Republicans to “save the life of Terri Schiavo.” But given these developments, truly principled and sober-minded people of good conscience must compel sustainable answers to a number of relevant questions: namely,
Do we want to confer upon politicians an arbitrary and capricious power to flout the well-settled law that protects communications between husbands and wives from government intrusion and abrogation?
Even if we deigned to ascribe honorable motives to some members of Congress, are we willing to give more credence (and power) to the government than to her husband to determine Mrs Schiavo’s wishes under these circumstances?
What does this case say about the inviolate bonds of marriage: Should we not respect the right of Mr Schiavo to decide what is best for his wife; provided however, that there is no credible evidence that he is motivated by nefarious intent? (And, this point has been adjudicated, exhaustively, and no such finding has been made against Mr Schiavo.)
Indeed, do these politicians have some evidence, not available to the judge, that Mr Schiavo is untrustworthy?
Do we accept the premise of the proposed Terri Schiavo law which holds that a once sane, mature and married woman who communicated to her husband what she wanted him to do in the event of her terminal incapacitation must now be protected – like a fetus in the womb – from the husband who wants only to honor her expressed wishes?
And, where it is admirable that Mrs Schiavo’s parents seem willing to pay any cost and bear any burden to maintain her in persistent vegetation, would Congress be so eager to intrude under similar circumstances if the vegetative person were a poor black man with no such support?
Moreover, should her parent’s resources even be weighed against her husband’s declarations of Mrs Schiavo’s intent?
(Incidentally, if nothing else, this case behooves us to reconsider the caricature of the mother-in-law as the worst fate that could befall a marriage. Because, imagine the emotional torture of a truly loving husband just trying to carry out his wife’s wishes under these circumstances and having to fight her parents in this very public way….)
Clearly, I have made no attempt to conceal my principled objection to Congressional involvement in this case. But, whereas I can at least appreciate the specious logic that motivates pro-life Republicans, I cannot fathom why privacy and women’s rights advocates like Hillary Clinton would join in their march to trample over the prerogatives of this marriage and the private right of Mrs Schiavo to die with dignity.
A Pox on Both Your Houses