The frantic bullying of President Bush and the Republican dominated Congress into the personal life of Terri Shiavo is both grotesque and disgraceful. Not since former Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire gleefully waved pictures of dead fetuses on the Senate floor has our political world reached such a bizarre and troubling nadir.
The following is an editorial from the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Liberty Lost? Whose Life is It Anyway
Oh, for the days when people just died. When a loved one who could no longer take soup from a spoon was known to have finished living. In those days, grieving families could quarrel with no one but fate. Heeding the sad fact that nothing can restore consciousness to a badly damaged brain, they studied the art of acceptance.
The world has since changed utterly, as the strange political kidnapping of Terri Schiavo makes plain. Perhaps the only gladness to be gleaned from this mad story is that the hostage herself is not really around to witness her exploitation. But Americans should be embarrassed on her behalf to see Washington’s right-wing radicals seize this permanently unconscious woman for a totalitarian fibfest.
Totalitarian? What else can we call a government that elbows its way to a deathbed to dictate whether or not its occupant shall be allowed to die naturally? Where is the conservatism in insisting that a woman be interminably fed through a stomach tube — despite her expressed wishes to the contrary? And how can America’s chief champions of “the sanctity of marriage” justify their brazen intrusion into the personal lives of Terri Schiavo and husband Michael?
Sustained by a feeding tube for 15 years, Terri Schiavo has no meaningful brain function. About this there is no medical dispute — no matter what her parents may imagine they see in her reflexive grimaces. Though even her husband had difficulty coming to terms with the fact that his wife would forever linger in a persistent vegetative state, he ultimately resolved to honor his wife’s declared wishes and direct that her feeding tube be removed.
That was years ago. Soon after, Terri and Michael Schiavo were swept into an absurd political drama in which facts seem to play no role. Never mind that Michael Schiavo’s every act has been in keeping with law and common medical practice. Somehow, this particular Florida case had all the makings of right-wing infotainment. Once the production played its way through Florida’s Legislature and court system, the feds took the stage.
And so it is that House Majority Leader Tom Delay, R-Texas, has seen fit to call Michael Schiavo’s attempt to honor his wife’s wishes “an act of medical terrorism” and of “homicide” — a characterization so vile it may qualify as slander. President Bush was so determined to “save Terri” that he winged his way back from vacation to sign a law tossing her destiny into the federal courts.
It’s a silly obstructionist game, and if American liberty means anything, it will soon end. Federal court is the wrong place for reviewing state policy, and in any case this controversy raises no unresolved matter. But forget protocol: Thanks to Washington’s bosses, the private business of a Florida man and his vegetative wife is headed for a trip through the federal court system. For Terri and Michael Schiavo, it’s likely to be a victory tour: In ruling after ruling, the nation’s courts have emphasized that individuals, not government, should make decisions about personal medical matters. How can the champions of “small government” — the very authors of this vulgar, tyrannical escapade — possibly disagree?