Fat Steve's Blatherings

Monday, March 21, 2005

More Weird Schiavo Comments

      Jeff Jarvis opines:
As Congress and the President rushed into their exploitation of Terri Schiavo, they set off a bomb that will have considerable fallout, I think:

      From whence comes this certainty that trying to delay Terri's death is "exploitation"?  Shouldn't there be some evidence?

      Gordon Dickson, in The Tactics of Mistake, has a character say that a thief always expects you to steal from him, a con man expects you to try to cheat him.  Are these people crying "exploitation" so certain because they themselves see this case as something to exploit for hidden political advantage?

: Without incredibly explicit instructions directly from the patient -- and even with explicit instructions from the spouse or guardian -- I can see doctors and hospitals refusing to take people off life-support for fear that some family member can come forward and start suing.

      And this is a bad thing?  Behold the face of pro-death politics: 'WAH!  We don't get to kill people!'

      Perhaps it comes from having actually worked in hospitals, but I damned well don't want doctors killing people, or simply denying them care, without "incredibly explicit instructions directly from the patient."  I can't understand why Jarvis does want doctors killing people.

: Not that moneyu [sic] should be a factor in matters of life and death -- though, of course, it is in the insurance industry -- but we are going to end up with who-knows-how-many-more vegetative patients who will be kept alive out of fear of litigation and the high cost of maintaining them will fall to the people through insurance and taxes.

      You know, usually people don't contradict themselves in a single sentence.  What do you pro-murder people want that money for?

: We now have the federal government -- and not just the federal government but both houses of Congress and the President himself -- inserting themselves into an individual medical, legal, family dispute. Watch the avalanche of individual cases that will now fall upon Washington: You did it for Terri, why not for my cousin?

      Haven't liberals been inserting themselves into individual decisions for a long time?  Anti-discrimination legislation, for instance?  Laws saying girls can't get their ears pierced without parental permission, but can get abortions in secret?  And directly to the point, rulings on whether a parent must make certain medical treatments available to children, even if it contradicts the wishes of the parents?

      By the way, does anyone have any statistics on numbers of cases like Terri Schiavo's, or did Jarvis just pull this "avalanche" out of his hat?

: The Republicans set some odd precedents in matters of state's rights and government interference in individuals' lives that may come back to haunt them.

      Right back at you, liberal.  You've spent seventy years overriding state courts because they didn't do what you wanted.  Now, it goes the other way, and you cry foul.

      If you can't stand to lose, don't start a game.

: You can bet there will be attempts to extend what happened last night as a principle of life into the debate over abortion.

      It keeps coming up -- abortion, that is.

      I've read a good deal about the slavery issue in the last year, and one thing that struck me was the way what started out as a distinct issue grew to swallow politics.  Tarrifs, internal improvements, constitutional interpretation, the internal procedure of Congress, the powers of Congress in the Territories, the internal workings of state law, these all became entangled with slavery.  By the 1850s, the South approached every issue with the question "Will this strengthen or weaken slavery?", and demanded that all politics be conducted as if there were a clause in the Constitution mandating eternal bondage for blacks in the United States.

      Now, we're being told that the "right of a woman to control her own body" entails the right of a husband who's engaged to another woman to kill his wife.  If I believed that, I'd join the pro-life absolutists this afternoon.
: You can bet you will not see attempts to extend this principle into the debate over the death penalty, however.

      There, I agree.  The anti-death penalty people don't care if Terri dies.  If she'd murdered someone, they'd move heaven and earth to keep her breathing.  But she hasn't done anything, so it's OK to knock her off.  FEH!

: You will see Terri Schiavo continue to be used as a political hostage as any Democrat who dared question the wisdom and legality of this action will be accused by opponents in the next election as being against life.

      Good.  That will be the truth.

What else?

This is not the result of deliberative government and the rule of law. This is the result of the fog of media and cynical politics.

      The discerning reader will have noted the complete absence of any attempt to state the case for keeping Terri Schiavo alive, or the suspicious circumstances alleged to surround her collapse, or the accusations that the Florida judge failed to follow the law.

      I'd say that Jarvis and his side are the ones trying to fog the issue.

: MORE: I also believe that this will have an indirect impact on the issues surrounding right-to-die and euthanasia.

      Note the way those two different issues are conflated.

      The 'right-to-die' is about an individual's right to refuse treatment that will extend life when such extension isn't wanted.  Euthanasia is about killing people without their consent.

      I fucking well hope this case inhibits euthanasia!

I do agree that starving a person to death -- or choking them by withdrawing a resperator[sic; and by the way, the proper term is "ventilator"]-- is potentially cruel (the arguments about whether a person without a brain feels pain are, of course, inconclusive). I would be scared of agreeing to die that way. But if I were eased into death with drugs, that might be a different matter. [Note to the future: Do not take this as my living will. I'm not sure yet.] But to ease me into death with drugs -- in other words, to kill me with medication -- is illegal in all states but Oregon. And so we are forced to choose what certainly seems to be a crueler means of ending life.

      Funny, I thought we had another choice: keeping people alive.

It's not wrong to draw the parallel many have (one commenter on this post, one blogger I quoted on MSNBC last week) to death-penalty treatment: We also cannot be sure whether they suffer (there is debate about that) but even if they do, it is for a far, far shorter time than starving someone to death or choking them (which is terribly frightening to me). So more fallout of this case -- quite unintended by those who set off the bomb -- could be more liberalization of laws regarding medically assisted death. Or put it this way: If I wrote my living will with explicit instructions [again: I'm not going that yet] saying that I would want life support removed but only with sufficient narcotics to cause death, what would doctors and courts do then?

      As far as I can tell, they'd let you have your way.  But Terri Schiavo never wrote anything, and the evidence she would want to be dead in this situation comes from a husband who reportedly asked nurses, frequently, "Isn't that bitch dead yet?"  The situations are not at all parallel.



  • This is an excellent point and counterpoint effort. Oh yes I had a chuckle over that rather expressive wording. It is appropriate to express the frustration on this issue.

    Keep up the good work.

    By Blogger Maggie, at 2:40 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home