Monday, March 28, 2005

Terri Schiavo part 4, a study in contradictions

A study in contradictions.

It seems that contradictions abound in the Terri Schiavo issue.

Michael Schiavo: Is he a loving husband, tearfully supporting his wife’s final wishes or a cold hearted killer determined to remove her from his life? Is he an adulterous bastard, or man who lost his love and moved on with his life? Is he a grieving spouse who lost his loved one, or a cold blooded murderer?

The Schindlers: Are they controlling, money hungry parents trying to milk every penny from their daughters shattered life, or grieving parents who just want to continue caring for their daughter?

Both together (and their doctors): Is Schiavo a realist, who sees Terri’s condition for what it is- the end of her life, a living death that she would not have wanted, or are the Schindlers the right ones when they claim she was prime for rehabilitation, aware and conscious deserves to live?

Analysis (aka opinion): I think Schiavo has moved on, and so no longer cares about Terri one way or another. He may well be supporting her wishes, it’s possible. He denies any possibility that she might be aware, and insists she is gone. The money grubbing accusations against him do not stand up to the fact that the money in question is gone, and that by relinquishing custody of her, he would have been paid millions. His worst crime seems to be a heavy dose of reality coupled with a single minded obsession. Likewise, the Schindlers don’t strike me as money seekers, they seem more like eternally optimistic-blinded by their optimism loving parents, who see in Terri the life and person she was, not who she is now. They are victims of their love and refusal to let go. Their only crime it seems to me is denial.

The politicians:

The republicans: The right to life is their goal, yet they support capital punishment. Smaller government and less government intervention, yet they used Congress to try and force the issue.

The Democrats: They support the right to die and abortion, but not capital punishment? They decry government intervention, but remember Elian Gonzales?

Both: Using this for whatever political leverage they can. Period.

Florida: The state does not allow euthanasia or assisted suicide, but this case is certainly a blend of the two. A family member decides to allow someone to die. A person has a stated desire to not live after a severe trauma. All of these are elements of the Schiavo matter, and the court has consistently and specifically ordered her to be allowed to die. This area becomes semantics of the worst order: She hasn’t chosen to die; she has elected to not be kept alive. She has not been euthanized; she has had her life support measures terminated. All the sophistry in the world cannot hide the fact, that from the State’s perspective, they have ordered the mercy death (a new oxymoron?) of an innocent and helpless woman or they have enabled this innocent woman to terminate her own life based on her spouses declaration of her wishes to not continue living in that state. Either way the state is culpable.

Terri herself: Is she a person or a shell? Dead or alive? Pawn or player? It seems more and more apparent that much of the fuss surrounding this case is attributed to 3 factors:
  • The right to die versus right to life debate
  • The animosity and battle for control between her parents and husband.
  • The attempts for political gain and spin control by the politicians and the lobbyists.

The second one is the most tragic really, for it embodies the worst of all of it. As family they should be together in grief, united in love for Terri, and jointly sharing their loss. And it continues, since now that her parents have given up efforts to save her life, they and Michael Schiavo now argue over the disposition of her remains. He wants her immediately cremated and interned in Pennsylvania, they want her buried with a catholic mass in Florida. A compromise appears necessary. As a Catholic, she can be cremated and interned, but Catholic preference (not dogma, just preference…rites exist to have a Holy Mass for the ‘cremains’…) is to have the Holy Mass first, then the cremation. A logical compromise would be to have a formal Catholic Mass, followed by her cremation and internment. It does show some encouragement that Mr. Schiavo allowed her Easter Communion and the Sacrament of the sick (aka Extreme Unction or Last Rites) on Sunday. Maybe there is some hope after all.

I sincerely hope they figure it out, but frankly it appears remote, the damage between the camps has been done, the accusations and vitriol has caused so much hard feeling that I doubt any manner of compromise is possible. Even in her death (when it occurs) she will remain the source of dissension.

But perhaps, the worst contradiction of all is that even in death she will also be the poster child of both the right to life and right to die groups….in one the victim, in the other the victory.

Even in her death, the contradictions will remain.