Monday, March 21, 2005

Politics of Schiavo

I just blogged on what I thought should be done regarding Terry Schiavo's tragic situation. Specifically, I said that in absence of a clear indication that she'd desire otherwise (which I don't believe is present here), I think we should default to saving her life. To be honest, I think President Bush hit the right note here: "This is a complex case with serious issues. But in extraordinary circumstances like this, it is wise to always err on the side of life."

The politics of the situation, however, are another matter entirely. Conservatives are up to their eyeballs in hypocrisy here, and Democrats should make them put their money where their mouth is. As Barbara O'Brien noted (tip: Kevin Drum), somehow all this support for "life" flies out the window once the government has to step in and make sure the poor have access to the care necessary to sustaining and protecting their lives.
"We need a list of politicians and commentators, including bloggers, who have been calling for cuts in Medicaid but who now have joined in the 'save Terri Schiavo' cult. These people need to be challenged to take her off Medicaid and pay for her maintenance themselves. If you know of any such people, please add their names to the comments.

The righties are going to say, it's not about money, it's about principle. But the principle is that there are people right now who are not receiving health care that they need because they can't afford it, and their lives may be shortened as a result. But there is plenty of taxpayer money to keep Terri Schiavo alive, even though she has no hope of ever being conscious.

Why? Because she's politically useful, that's why. That's your 'principle.'"

Even the American public, notoriously gullible with regards to GOP culture war putsches, isn't buying the facade that DeLay and Company actually care about Schiavo and others like her. Indeed, when the choice is between saving money and prolonging life, Conservative activists have been mysteriously silent. Much hay has been made over the fact that Schiavo's parents are willing and able to pay for her care. That's wonderful, but what of those who don't have the bankroll to care for their loved ones? Apparently, the answer is: pull the plug.

Nobody should die simply because they cannot afford to live. If there is one, basic obligation of our society, it is to ensure life to all citizens. We can debate about the other stuff later, but life has to be a baseline. It's why I consider myself pro-life on abortion, and why I consider programs like Medicare/Medicaid to be moral imperatives on society, not just "liberal entitlement programs."

11 comments:

AI said...

For the most part, I agree. At the same time, while I risk sounding heartless, I think it's accurate to say that Schiavo is a waste of resources. She has effectively (if not literally) been dead for 15 years. The chances of her coming back to life are smaller than those of Tupac Shakur. As such, it's time to pull the plug on someone who is a waste of resources. Quite frankly, MILLIONS have been spent to keep this vegetable functioning. I say vegetable because she has no voluntary brain function. In terms of moral worth, she is an Earthworm right now. When she was alive, her life was priceless. Now that she's dead, the 'moral' right wing is denying others' right to life by insisting that Schiavo must be kept alive. Pull the plug and give the resources and money to someone who actually needs them.

N.S.T said...

"At the risk of sounding heartless, Lemme make compare this poor woman to an overglorifyed street thug..." When a doctor took the original Hippocratic oath(of course, its prose has ben modernized since then) he swore that he would, among other things,
he would "neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor make a suggestion to this effect." It is a tradition that the medical profession be a guardian of life. Teri Schiavo may not be functioning, and she may never function again, but to make it simply a matter of her brain capacity at the moment is to miss the point. It sets a bad precedent when we let clearly uncommitted, money-grubbing spouses decide these matters over loving family members, along with the negative precedent Schraub mentioned in his last post. The fact of the matter is that pulling the plug against the wishes of the family would be acquiescense to the husband, who wants to collect the insurance money and move on with his girlfriend, and is willing to sacrifice--in a legal and final sense--someone he is supposed to "love" with all due devotion. Both as doctors, and as human beings, we have an obligation to do what we know in our hearts is right, and this means making such cases much like divorce cases, or restraining orders, or custody battles, subject to the discretionary judgement of the legal system.

N.S.T said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jack said...

This whole thing is just an absurd political show and I'm disappointed, Dave, that you see fit to further the political commodification of one poor family's misery.

This weeks emergency congressional response to the decision to remove the feeding tube from Schiavo has been one of the most disgusting displays of political showboating and hypocrisy in recent years. Its a wonder how Tom Delay only seems to care about euthanasia when the subject is a high profile media case originating in a swing state where the President's brother is governor. Where was congress's moral outrage at the genocide in Rwanda and Sudan? Where has the outrage been for the past decades of capital punishment and low=profile euthanasia? Where was the moral outrage at the bombings of abortion clinics? Where was the outrage at the decades of international crimes committed by the US?

I am no fan the decision to remove that feeding tube but the only entity with less right to judge the situation is the federal government. I won't even begin to address the gross violation of seperation of power here.


Nick, your ignorance of the situation is equally disturbing. You wrote, "The fact of the matter is that pulling the plug against the wishes of the family would be acquiescense to the husband, who wants to collect the insurance money and move on with his girlfriend, and is willing to sacrifice--in a legal and final sense--someone he is supposed to "love" with all due devotion."

Nick, if the husband wanted to get the money and then get out he would have divorce Teri years ago. The ONLY conceivable motivation for him IS that he loves his wife and believes she wouldn't want to continue living in he present condition. Nick, shes been in that state for 15 years. Do you have any idea how long that is? Thats about how long you've been alive Nick. My parents loved each other deeply but for various reasons their marriage only lasted 15 years. Both were usually conscious. How you could expect that man to live in solitude and mourning for the rest of his life is beyond me.

jack said...

Dave, I should have applauded your condemnation of Delay and pals in my first comment. Well put.

N.S.T said...

Hey,Jack, perhaps the family wanted to get congress involved...In fact, I know they did. Not like President Can't Keep It In His Pants had anything to say about Rwanda, in fact he had much less to say than President Bush has said about Sudan. The fact is that you are simply wrong and logical false to say that we can't address both domestic crises and foreign ones at the same time, and if we aren't addressing the foreign crises(Though i'd argue the foreign crises are lately working themselves out)we may as well address the domestic ones when we can.

AI said...

"It is a tradition that the medical profession be a guardian of life. Teri Schiavo may not be functioning, and she may never function again, but to make it simply a matter of her brain capacity at the moment is to miss the point."

No it's not. The point is this: the medical profession has the obligation to safeguard life. Not to prop it up. For all intents and purposes, her life is over. The fact is, brain capacity IS the point. The question here is when does a person cease to be a person? In my view, it's when they lose all voluntary brain functions, as Schiavo has done. It's plain that she will never regain this. So at this point, the doctors are propping up a costly biological consumer, not a person.

"It sets a bad precedent when we let clearly uncommitted, money-grubbing spouses decide these matters over loving family members, along with the negative precedent Schraub mentioned in his last post. The fact of the matter is that pulling the plug against the wishes of the family would be acquiescense to the husband, who wants to collect the insurance money and move on with his girlfriend, and is willing to sacrifice--in a legal and final sense--someone he is supposed to "love" with all due devotion."

First of all, you're ad homming her husband. Supposedly, her family is "loving" and he's "money-grubbing". Lovely. You have no proof for your claim. Yes, her husband was supposed to "love her with all due devotion". And I have no doubts that he did. But the person he loves is dead. I don't know about you, but most people don't fall in love with a person's body. Because at this point, all she is is a functioning body with no mind. There's no "negative precedent" being set here, except the one that, after 15 years, he's not "giving anyone up". For heaven's sake, what do you expect from this guy? You're being completely nonsensical when you claim that he's somehow sacrificing her. In case you haven't noticed, she's been dead for 15 years. There's nothing left to sacrifice, and no bad precedent being set.

"Both as doctors, and as human beings, we have an obligation to do what we know in our hearts is right, and this means making such cases much like divorce cases, or restraining orders, or custody battles, subject to the discretionary judgement of the legal system."

Well, what we know is right here is pulling the plug and ceasing to make this belated woman a sideshow. It's a sad story, but her carcass should not be consuming resources and money that could be used to feed those who still have purpose in their life. What outrages me is that MILLIONS are being spent on Teri Schiavo's carcass, while hundreds of thousands in the United States alone are starving. THAT, to me, is an outrage.

jack said...

"Hey,Jack, perhaps the family wanted to get congress involved...In fact, I know they did."

1st. The husband didn't. Second, Nick, my mother grounded me a few weeks ago. Do you think congress could get involved and fix that for me? Also, I lost my sweater, I would like federal assistance.




"His Pants had anything to say about Rwanda, in fact he had much less to say than President Bush has said about Sudan."


First, I don't know when I said President Clinton was right on the issue: the point is he isn't in congress obsessing about a relatively trivial moral issue.

Second, sweet Nick, President Bush has said the genocide in Sudan is bad. Awesome. I'm so proud of my President that he is doing all he can to end crimes against humanity. His moral leadership is unprecedented. Oh wait, NO.


"The fact is that you are simply wrong and logical false to say that we can't address both domestic crises and foreign ones at the same time, and if we aren't addressing the foreign crises(Though i'd argue the foreign crises are lately working themselves out)we may as well address the domestic ones when we can."


Thats non-responsive. My argument isn't that Congress is wasting time on a trivial issue to gain political support (though they are and it is. It isn't a logical fallacy to say that congress has a limited amount of time and plenty of things to do: my sweater, its green, have you seen it?) My argument was that the inconsistency between congressional reaction to the Schiavo case and the multitude of other moral tragendies is outragous.

The right has even gone so far as to ad hom the husband in an effort to radicalize the public on the issue. (As evidenced by your earlier statement)

Nick, I don't defend the left when they're actions are violently and astonishingly wrong. What are you doing?

N.S.T said...

1. My point was that Rwanda wasn't all congress' fault, Jack. I stand by that-- Rwanda was a collective failure of the entire leadership, and one which you rightfully jumped upon. However, no one said that we could only focus on one moral crisis at a time, that we had to be paralyzed by such failures, or that we shouldn't deal with the problems which we have the power to so easily deal with. And it is much easier to resolve this problem than to end Sudanese genocide, let's face it. Of course, no one-- and I didn't mean to suggest otherwise-- is due any congratulations for the handling of Sudan. However, what i did mean was that we-- by simply admittnig there is a problem-- did more than the United Nations has thusfar been willing to due, and it isn't as if anyone-- especially not the united states-- deserves the blame for Sudan. Our military's stretched thin and there's only so much we can do, so many conflicts we can enter at once.

2. jack, I don't expect him to live in solitude and mourning for 15 years, and even if I had had that expectation, he obviously wouldn't have met it. He has not only been dating other women for all of that time, but was dating during the medical malpractice trial he prompted on his incapacitated wife's behalf. This in and of itself is not what I object to-- after all, I would expect someone to resume dating. The objectionable thing about it is that this was during this trial when he promised to take care of her for the duration of her life, presenting himself as a loving husband. Rather than bore you with all of the details, I direct you to this article:
http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/004/027bcfsv.asp
Far from making me seem like a raving lunatic with no credibility, sense, or objectivity, I think it will somewhat vindicate me for my "ad-hominem" attacks on the man(But more on that in a sec)

3. Both of you have complained of me "ad-homming" Michael Schiavo. However, for my attack to have been ad-hominem, it would have a had to be a diversionary tactic to shift focus away from the real issue. This, I think, It clearly is not. Because he has custody of terri(And, if you read that article, generous compensation for her accident) under the court's assumption that he has her best interests at heart, that he is willing to support her(again, read the article to see what i'm talking about) and that he is a faithful, loving husband. The article above, combined with allegations-- made by Terri's family, investigated numerous times and almost brought to trial-- that Michael Schiavo beat his wife, their daughter. This IS pertinent to the case in a very big way. Because if he had beaten her, then that would be grounds to revoke his legal guardian status. I wasn't ad-homming, so much as making a point(although it may have sounded like ad-homming the way I originally voiced my thoughts, with a lot of reaction and little tact)

4. Imus, now lemme adress you specifically. She isn't consuming YOUR resources, or MY resources, or TAXPAYER resources of any kind. Her medical care is(was, she isn't receiving any at the moment) being payed for by 750,000 dollars in a trust fund, won in the malpractice suit(that's in addition to the 300,000 Michael Schiavo won for himself for loss of companionship). And if Terri were to fall under the legally designated guardinaship of her parents, it would continue as such. It's not a question of sucking funds away from something, in fact, it isn't a question of public interest at all. She's not a sideshow, she's not a vegetable, she's someone's child. Whether she has any meaning to you, me, or anyone else is irrelevant because she means a whole lot to someone, to some group, so much so that they're willing to pay the bills to keep her alive.

AI said...

1. Regardless of whether he "promised to take care of her for the duration of her life", he realized that she was not coming back to life. Several years ago, he offered to give ALL of the trust fund to charity in return for the ability to pull the plug. If that doesn't scream that he's not out for money, I don't know what does.
2. None of those allegations have been proven, meaning that they have zero weight. As is quite clear, he is NOT after the money. The only logical conclusion to reach is that Schiavo realizes that keeping someone's body propped up in a vegetative state for 15 years is dehumanizing.
3. Your argument falls apart when you say "She isn't a sideshow, she isn't a vegetable", because that's exactly what she is. Teri Schiavo is dead. Yes, it's terrible, but she's been dead for 15 years. Most people get done grieving for their dead child after 5 years at most. The Schiavos are clinging to little more than a biological vegetable that was once their daughter. The daughter they gave birth to is dead now, and is never coming back. It's tough to accept, but that's the way it is. If the Schiavos want to use money to prop up their child, that's their business until they use the services of doctors who could (should?) be helping patients who are alive.

N.S.T said...

"If the Schiavos want to use money to prop up their child, that's their business until they use the services of doctors who could (should?) be helping patients who are alive."

Imus...

We live in a capitalist economy where people sell their services for the right price. No one can tell me how to spend my money, or you how to spend yours, or Terri Schiavo's parents how to spend theirs. And the reverse is true, as well--No one can tell my father who to write for, my mother who to edit for, your parents who they can sell their services to, or a doctor whom they can serve. Hospitals especially need not to discriminate on the basis of need, they have an obligation to serve all of those who ask for help. We can't set the precedent of hospitals turning patients away, as that would also be a complete violation of the principles of the Hippocratic oath.