Friday, April 01, 2005

Strapped for headlines

A USA Today headline: "Schiavo's life was tragically short, but her legacy is long." The first sentence of a Maggie Gallagher column: "Now that Terri's long struggle is drawing to a close, our own begins."

This is going to sound cynical, and for that I apologize, but these writers, newspeople and columnists never paid attention to Terri and others like her before the issue became hot. They're mining people's emotions for attention. Anyway, that's not really relevant, because everyone knows that. On to my point:

John Leo, an op-ed columnist and writer of one page fluff pieces for US News and World Report, orders us to "Think of the Terri Schiavo case as another red-vs.-blue issue." No, John Leo, I won't, because things aren't that simple. This isn't a red-vs.-blue issue. He also quotes Richard Neuhaus approvingly: "Thousands of ethicists and bioethicists, as they are called, professionally guide the unthinkable on its passage through the debatable on its way to becoming the justifiable, until it is finally established as the unexceptional." Many conservatives echo this, because they think that's exactly what happened: something unthinkable was forced down their throats by "the enemy": those freakishly liberal courts, for example. Now, I don't know what the right thing to do in this case was, and I have no argument either way. What I do know is that it didn't take Terri Schiavo and a truck full of bioethicists to "establish" cases like this as unexceptional: they happen all the time, in hospitals, hospices, and homes across the country and the world. Decisions are made, and more often than not someone is disappointed. In trying to make the Schiavo case out to be unique, the media has done us a disservice.

3 Comments:

At 10:38 AM, Blogger J. Morgan Caler said...

Wow, excellent post Charles. Related, but not in response, I was hoping to ask about the Schiavo case. Maybe I am missing something, but this seems to me a cut-and-dry, uncomplicated, completely routine end of life decision that was squarely within the bounds of our legal code (until, of course, everyone with an ounce of power or conviction jumped on it). Maybe there is something more complex - whether it is medical, ethical, political, etc. - but, for the life of me, I cannot find it. As Charles noted, the decision, by a spouse and legal guardian, to withdraw a feeding tube from a woman in a persistent vegetative state is not precedent-setting, illegal, or, until now, controversial. I cannot understand why anyone even took note of this case to begin with. Someone please help me figure it out!

 
At 1:58 PM, Blogger E.A.P said...

I'm with j.morgan caler on this one: Since when was this not considered pretty normal? I think many right-to-lifers jumped on the bandwagon when TS's parents voiced their concerns in their terms and were willing to use the courts (and anyone else with an ounce of power) to keep their daughter alive, no matter what her husband thought or what she may have said before she fell into that terrible state. I'm sorry, but I think this whole thing makes right-to-lifers look rabid and hypocritical. They were more worried about keeping her alive than they were about a host of social issues.

Honestly, the only thing I'm happy about is that people are talking about something other than the King of Pop and the teatro del absurdo that is his life right now. These are the sorts of things that make me want to stop reading what little news I do so I can devote full time to weeping over the state of civilization.

 
At 10:47 AM, Blogger RedHurt said...

I think the issue became a news story and is exceptional because Shavio's husband is living with another woman who has borne him children, recieved roughly $1 million upon her death, and was begged by her parents not to let her die.

I'm on the other side of this issue from you guys. I don't believe she left any indication that she didn't want to remain on life support in the event of a severe accident. I think this guy was sick of her and dealing with it and wanted her money. It seems like it would have been very easy and compassionate for him to let her parents have their way. It looks to me like he had her put down for the money, and nothing else.

 

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