Wednesday, March 23, 2005

THE TERRI SCHIAVO CASE is getting sadder by the hour, and more frightening, too, in the total and complete willingness of the Bush administration (both the federal Bush administration and the one in Florida) to trample all over the Constitution. After a federal judge, a 3-judge panel, and a full appeals court all refused to order the re-insertion of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, Schiavo's parents are now appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is almost certainly going to turn down the case, as it has done in the past. Now Jeb Bush is saying he is going to ask a Florida court to re-insert the feeding tube. Why? Because a neurologist who visited Ms. Schiavo, presumably in the last few days, concluded that she is not in a persistent vegetative state. The neurologist, William Cheshire -- who works at a clinic in Jacksonville -- is, according to Gov. Bush, "renowned" in his field. But this "renowned" medical professional based his opinion that Terri Schiavo is in a "state of minimal consciousness" on watching two videotapes that were made by Ms. Schiavo's parents and other family members, and on a one-hour visit, with no physical examination included.

The moral, ethical, and professional culpability of all the parties involved in this federal review cannot be overstated. Mary and Robert Schindler simply cannot allow themselves to believe their daughter has no thoughts or conscious awareness; they have allowed their desperation and love for their child to convince them that Terri makes eye contact with them, can hear them, and responds, or at least tries to respond. The idea that Terri will never get better, or improve from the condition she is in now, is unthinkable for her parents. The possibility that it might be better for Terri, and ultimately for those who love her, to let go and let her go, is an idea that simply is not possible for her parents to accept.

And although I wish they would see what a travesty this whole situation is, I don't blame them one bit. They are her mother and father; I am not. If I were in that situation, I might be reacting the same way. I hope I wouldn't, but who can know?

The people I do fault are all the people surrounding the Schindlers who should know better but obviously don't. And "fault" is too mild a word when applied to what Jeb Bush, Pres. Bush, Tom DeLay, the entire Republican leadership, and everyone in Congress of whichever party who voted to ignore years of litigation in the Florida courts have done. They have manipulated and exploited the grief and desperation of two parents who cannot bear to lose their daughter, solely for the purpose of scoring points with a Christian conservative base that, as it turns out, is not as solidly supportive as they had counted on. They were and are willing to trash the Constitution, the federalist system, separation of powers, and the independence of state judiciaries so they can look like heroes to people in places like Kansas and Oklahoma and Texas. Their noble words about standing up for life are hollow. Anyone can figure out that when Jeb Bush, or George W. Bush, or Tom DeLay, or any other politician of their ilk says, as they all have in more or less the same words, "I believe that in a case such as this, the legislative branch, the executive branch ought to err on the side of life...," you know they have no concern whatsoever for "the side of life" -- much less for the anguish that Mary and Robert Schindler, and Michael Schiavo, are going through. Because if the presence of "any uncertainty" were a reason, for these villains, to "err on the side of life," then they could not permit the death penalty to be carried out for even one more day; and they could not have invaded Afghanistan or Iraq, if they felt that the presence of "any uncertainty" about the human cost of war required them to "err on the side of life."

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