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The Circus

Mark Kleiman has a must-read post on the appalling hypocrisy revealed by the conservative movement's reaction to l'affaire Schiavo:

Sun Hudson, a six-month-old boy with a fatal congenital disease, died Thursday after a Texas hospital, over his mother's objections, withdrew his feeding tube. The child was apparently certain to die, but was conscious. The hospital simply decided that it had better things to do than keeping the child alive, and the Texas courts upheld that decision after the penniless mother failed, during the 10-day window provided for by Texas law, to find another institution willing to take the child .

Where, I would ask, is the outrage? In particular, where is the outrage from those like Tom DeLay, who referred to the withdrawal of Terry Schiavo's life support as "murder"? If it's appropriate to Federalize the Schiavo case, what about the people being terminated simply because their cases are hopeless and their bank accounts empty?

Sun Hudson is dead, but 68-year-old Spiro Nikolouzos is still alive, thanks to an emergency appeals court order issued yesterday. However, his life support could be cut off at any moment. A nursing home is willing to take him if his family can show that he will be covered by Medicaid after his Medicare runs out. Otherwise, the hospital gets to pull the plug.

It seems worth noting at this point that the overwhelming majority of the Republican caucus voted last week to cut Medicaid benefits. Like the cowards that they are, no specific cuts were on the table, rather they wanted to force Governors to undertake unspecified cuts. We do know, however, what Medicaid spends the bulk of its money on -- long-term care for ailing elderly and disabled people -- so we know what would have been cut. Nor do the handful of Republicans whose defections blocked the cuts in the Senate deserve one iota of credit. They, too, voted for the steep tax cuts that will make Medicaid cuts necessary. And of course the sort of situations under discussion here are the direct result of a law that George W. Bush himself signed.

The double-dealing here is vile, but not entirely unexpected. Somewhat more noteworthy is the decision of the organized Christian Right in the United States to willingly play their part as hack partisans rather than genuine advocates for the culture of life. But of course, such things are perhaps to be expected from a set of institutions who are so deeply implicated in the Indian Gaming corner of the burgeoning DeLay scandals. Religion as financial scam may be abhorrent, but it's hardly unheard of. Meanwhile, the same congressional Republican Party rejected efforts to reduce the abortion rate by funding pregnancy prevention programs. Instead, they prefer to wage an ongoing war on sex at the state level, in a manner that will do nothing for the unborn, but will harm young women enormously. One would like to think that said harms are being inflicted in the name of some sort of religious dogma, but the reality is that, as with Schiavo, simple cynicism is a far more likely solution. The masses must remain riled up with an endless parade of controversies and "outrages" so a stink shall be raised while efforts at constructive policymaking rejected. If people need to suffer as a result, then that's a small price to pay for keeping the culture wars circus afloat. Enough bright colors and loud noises just may serve to distract attention from the rot at the core of it all.

March 20, 2005 | Permalink

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» RE-UPDATED: Bush II; Day 137: More on the Schiavo Case from Issues Forum
Thanks to The Moderate Voice for providing a very thorough wrap-up of various viewpoints around the Internet. UPDATED: This post would not be complete without including this scathing, scary post by the brilliant James Wolcott. RE_UPDATED: Here are a co... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 20, 2005 12:35:01 PM

» Killing Them Softly from Political Animal
KILLING THEM SOFTLY....Mark Kleiman writes today about Terri Schiavo and the "Texas Futile Care Law." Apparently George Bush and other Texas Republicans think that pulling the plug on hopeless patients is perfectly OK as long as money is the issue... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 20, 2005 12:52:05 PM

» Schiavo, Hudson, and Nikolouzos from Mark A. R. Kleiman
Two Texans, one young and one old, are being taken off life support by their health care providers over their families' objections. Neither is in a persistent vegetative state. So where's the outrage, Mr. Delay? Mr. Bush? [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 20, 2005 6:44:51 PM

» Schiavo, Hudson, and Nikolouzos from Mark A. R. Kleiman
Two Texans, one young and one old, are being taken off life support by their health care providers over their families' objections. Neither is in a persistent vegetative state. So where's the outrage, Mr. Delay? Mr. Bush? [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 20, 2005 6:50:50 PM

» The Schiavo Storm from Renaissance Men
Interestingly enough, George Bush signed the Texas Futile Care Law back when he was Governor of Texas that essentially allows hospitals to discontinue life support against a family's wishes if the family doesn't have the ability to pay all of the med... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 20, 2005 8:55:57 PM

» Err On The Side Of Life. from WILLisms.com
Some conservatives and liberals alike feel like Congress has no authority to step in and save Terri Schiavo. They say this is an issue of federalism, a matter to be left to the states. Some liberal bloggers go one step... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 21, 2005 11:10:58 AM

» Err On The Side Of Life. from WILLisms.com
Some conservatives and liberals alike feel like Congress has no authority to step in and save Terri Schiavo. They say this is an issue of federalism, a matter to be left to the states. Some liberal bloggers go one step... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 21, 2005 11:15:58 AM

» Err On The Side Of Life. from WILLisms.com
Some conservatives and liberals alike feel like Congress has no authority to step in and save Terri Schiavo. They say this is an issue of federalism, a matter to be left to the states. Some liberal bloggers go one step... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 21, 2005 11:18:23 AM

» Err On The Side Of Life. from WILLisms.com
Some conservatives and liberals alike feel like Congress has no authority to step in and save Terri Schiavo. They say this is an issue of federalism, a matter to be left to the states. Some liberal bloggers go one step... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 21, 2005 11:20:43 AM

» Err On The Side Of Life. from WILLisms.com
Some conservatives and liberals alike feel like Congress has no authority to step in and save Terri Schiavo. They say this is an issue of federalism, a matter to be left to the states. Some liberal bloggers go one step... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 21, 2005 1:22:03 PM

» Terri Schiavo and the Republican Culture of Death from Last Day of My Life
Congress passed the Palm Sunday Compromise Bill. President Bush signed the bill at 1:11 a.m. What this does is effectively moved the Terri Schiavo case from the Florida courts to Federal courts. Bush and Congress made a similar move with tort reform.... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 21, 2005 3:25:52 PM

» America's Socialized Health Care System from The Sanity Prompt
If nothing else, the most interesting thing about the Terri Schiavo case is that it reveals that Americans already have a socialized system of health care and have a deep commitment to the concept of socialized medicine. What is puzzling is the degre... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 21, 2005 5:31:30 PM

» Right-to-Life Hypocrisy, or Blogger Illiteracy? from JustOneMinute
Meanwhile, over in the [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 21, 2005 6:51:45 PM

Comments

Matt,
While your last two posts on the Schiavo case make a worthwhile point about the political use of this dilemma by movement conservatives, to judge from conservative callers on this morning's Washington Journal (which used the topic as its first segment), there is genuine moral concern over this issue, and it's worth mentioning that the issue (rooted in a moral claim as it is) ought to be considered on its merits. Furthermore, it's refreshing, and relatively rare -- Marvin Olasky slogans notwithstanding -- for conservatives to be palpably motivated by compassion (rather than anger). The Republican base may in many cases be regurgitating the leadership's propaganda, but it seems fair to assume there's some real concern out there among the rank and file.

Posted by: inip | Mar 20, 2005 11:56:04 AM

It seems worth noting at this point that the overwhelming majority of the Republican caucus voted last week to cut Medicaid benefits.
$80,000 of Medicaid per year spent to keep Terry Schiavo alive.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 20, 2005 12:00:28 PM

Very good.

"The double-dealing here is vile, but not entirely unexpected. Somewhat more noteworthy..."

That a representative sample of Republicans are predictably vile I consider quite noteworthy.

"The masses must remain riled up with an endless parade of controversies and "outrages" so a stink shall be raised while efforts at constructive policymaking rejected. If people need to suffer as a result, then that's a small price to pay for keeping the culture wars circus afloat."

Sounds like a program for dealing with the predictably vile. Dems don't need scare quotes but there is no point in attempting "constructive policymaking".

The messages sent this weekend are intentional despair and discouragement:

1) As people's loved ones die for lack of money, they get to watch Congress, including Dems, put extraordinary effort to save Schiavo
2) As our leaders vote to kill people in mass, including our "Christian leadership", preferring tax cuts and selfishness.

3) They see the media play along with the hypocrites, guiding the conversation to Schiavo rather than the Texas victims of Republicans, kinda with a grin & chuckle, "Watch fools".

Dems should not say one word about Schiavo, but only answer every question with "Medicaid Cuts & Republican Murderers". But they won't, they also play the game.

There is no longer any point to policy, Dems need to counter the circus with excess & impolite shrillness at all times.

Good post.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Mar 20, 2005 12:03:14 PM

inip? Bullshit.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Mar 20, 2005 12:04:50 PM

inip,

"it's worth mentioning that the issue (rooted in a moral claim as it is) ought to be considered on its merits."

Well, the issue has been considered at length for years now on its merits, and to reduce the case to its essentials, centuries of family law say you go with the spouse's wishes in a case like this.

"The Republican base may in many cases be regurgitating the leadership's propaganda, but it seems fair to assume there's some real concern out there among the rank and file."

Sure. That's why the Democrats are correctly getting out of the way on this issue.

There is political saliency in the issue. But that doesn't make the Schiavo posturers correct on the merits.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 20, 2005 12:16:35 PM

Legal Issues

Atrios links to a discussion of some of the legal implications. If the Repub congress can get Scalia et al to sign on, the US Congress can overturn any state court decision at will & whim,
not finally, but sending it to a more friendly Federal Court. Any state court decision.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Mar 20, 2005 12:35:34 PM

" If the Repub congress can get Scalia et al to sign on, the US Congress can overturn any state court decision at will & whim, not finally, but sending it to a more friendly Federal Court."

I look forward to having my Senator fix my parking tickets.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 20, 2005 12:51:55 PM

"The double-dealing here is vile, but not entirely unexpected. Somewhat more noteworthy..."

More noteworthy is the fact that Clinton and Janet Reno ordered children to be burned alive in Waco, TX. I never noticed any liberal outcry about that. Until then I'll continue to believe, based upon the evidence, that Democrats have no respect for life, and I'll continue to blame everything on Clinton.

Posted by: Brett Bullmore | Mar 20, 2005 12:59:03 PM

"there is genuine moral concern over this issue, and it's worth mentioning that the issue (rooted in a moral claim as it is) ought to be considered on its merits."

Sure. It has been considered on the merits. By the courts.

Posted by: praktike | Mar 20, 2005 1:01:28 PM

"I look forward to having my Senator fix my parking tickets."

You joke, but today's shenanigans might become very useful to Tom DeLay a little ways down the line.

"Sure. It has been considered on the merits. By the courts"

21 separate decisions over 15 years. This puts Schiavo into Federal Court not based on an error in law, but in fact. Meaning the Federal Court would start from scratch.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Mar 20, 2005 1:08:56 PM

"More noteworthy is the fact that Clinton and Janet Reno ordered children to be burned alive in Waco, TX. I never noticed any liberal outcry about that. Until then I'll continue to believe, based upon the evidence, that Democrats have no respect for life, and I'll continue to blame everything on Clinton."

Even more noteworthy is the fact that Bush and Rumsfeld ordered Iraqi children to be shot to death at US army checkpoints. I never noticed any conservative outcry about that. Until then I'll continue to believe, based upon the evidence, that Republicans have no respect for life, and I'll continue to blame everything on Bush.

God, Brett, I normally think of you better than that tripe. Do you have a stalker like Al does, trying to discredit you by presenting indefensible positions under your byline?

Posted by: Petey | Mar 20, 2005 1:15:00 PM

Petey:

Ha ha, I have a confession to make. That was me. I'm no cyber-stalker but I'm damn sick and tired of such sophistry. Go back to the post and carefully read the last name. That should have been a tip-off. I don't have anything against Mr. Bellmore and I think it would be pointless to rip on "Al" in such manner. I don't need a CT scan to tell that Brett's got brains, and he's a pretty good sport too. Which is why I guess I find his arguments all too predictably boring and annoying. Al, on the other hand, is comic relief.

Posted by: Barry Freed | Mar 20, 2005 1:22:51 PM

Argh! Now I can't believe anything on teh intarweb! Hacker! Hacker!

Posted by: jerry | Mar 20, 2005 1:26:23 PM

Now, now, I have never thought that Reno ordered those children killed. I merely think that she didn't order that they not be killed. That seeing to it that they survived didn't make the short list of things that had to be accomplished.

Not quite as bad, but the end result was the same.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Mar 20, 2005 1:58:07 PM

War on Sex: Good framing...Lakoff would be proud :)

Posted by: Luis | Mar 20, 2005 2:20:37 PM

There's a lot of sloppiness around this, at least I think there is after reading the articles:

Sun Hudson was on a ventilator. Spiro N. was, according to the hospital, brain dead, but is kept breathing by a ventilator. Terri S. is not on a ventilator, and isn't brain dead; she's on a feeding tube, and she's brain damaged (the extent of the damage is controverted). So the care provided and then withdrawn in the same case isn't the same thing. It seems to me entirely reasonable to view the cases differently.

There isn't any evidence that the hospitals in Texas were motivated by financial concerns. Which isn't to say that that shouldn't be a concern, but just to say that there isn't any evidence that it was involved in these cases. (And the fact that Sun's mother is penniless just means she's on the public fisc, doesn't it? And the fact that a nursing home is willling to take on as a patient someone who is brain dead may demonstrate that there are financial incentives going the other way as well.)

Kleiman misunderstands the point of the Texas law as well. In most every state hospitals and other health care providers can refuse to provide what they believe to be futile care. What's protected in Texas is the right to seek out another facility, and a stay of the withdrawal of care for 10 days to allow such a search. Futile care theory is on the agenda of right-to-lifers, but the disagreement is about the substance of the theory, not the existence. (Futile care theory is a bigger problem for those insist, in most cases, on patient primacy in health care; overruling patient primacy in these cases seems to suggest that patient primacy was just a means to an end.)

Then there's Matt's insistence that tax cuts have made cuts in Medicaid necessary. If we reversed the Bush tax cuts, we'd still have a deficit. Would that mean that we could afford the increases in Medicaid, or not? It doesn't do for anyone to pretend that they're in favor of fiscal responsibility,if they're not really.

Posted by: Thomas | Mar 20, 2005 3:00:49 PM

From CNN.com:

"In a memo distributed only to Republican senators, the Schiavo case was characterized as "a great political issue" that could pay dividends with Christian conservatives, whose support is essential in midterm elections such as those coming up in 2006."

Assuming this is true, enough said about the GOP motives.

Posted by: George K. | Mar 20, 2005 3:54:41 PM

Thomas:

There isn't any evidence that the hospitals in Texas were motivated by financial concerns.

Huh? The Houston Chronicle article states:

"A patient's inability to pay for medical care combined with a prognosis that renders further care futile are two reasons a hospital might suggest cutting off life support, the chief medical officer at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital said Monday."

Posted by: Don P | Mar 20, 2005 7:30:16 PM

Thomas . . . here is how an intermediate court of appeals in Fla described Terry Schiavo's condition in 1991.
"Over the span of this last decade, Theresa's brain has deteriorated because of the lack of oxygen it suffered at the time of the heart attack. By mid 1996, the CAT scans of her brain showed a severely abnormal structure. At this point, much of her cerebral cortex is simply gone and has been replaced by cerebral spinal fluid. Medicine cannot cure this condition. Unless an act of God, a true miracle, were to recreate her brain, Theresa will always remain in an unconscious, reflexive state, totally dependent upon others to feed her and care for her most private needs. She could remain in this state for many years." In re Guardianship of Schiavo, 780 So.2d 176, 177 (Fla. Ct. App. 2001).
Sounds pretty brain dead don't ya think?

Posted by: Finn | Mar 20, 2005 8:05:24 PM

Finn--No, that's not brain death. "Brain dead" means dead. It means, legally speaking, that we're talking about a corpse, not a person. It doesn't mean that someone is in a PVS, or is unconscious, or anything like that.

Don--Are those the reasons cited by the hospital in either case?

Posted by: Thomas | Mar 20, 2005 9:17:53 PM

Thomas:

Don--Are those the reasons cited by the hospital in either case?

I don't know. The patient at one of those hospitals, whose medical condition is seriously disputed, is unable to continue to pay for life support. The chief medical officer of that same hospital has publicly stated that a patient's inability to pay for continued medical care is one of the reasons the hospital cuts off life support. This would seem to be fairly strong evidence that financial motives are at least part of the reason for the hospital's decision, just as Mark Kleiman said.

Posted by: Don P | Mar 20, 2005 9:59:15 PM

Thomas:

Finn--No, that's not brain death. "Brain dead" means dead. It means, legally speaking, that we're talking about a corpse, not a person. It doesn't mean that someone is in a PVS, or is unconscious, or anything like that.

Yes, Terri Schiavo's condition is not technically "brain dead." But the overwhelming medical evidence is that she has no cognitive function and that there is no possibility of recovery or meaningful improvement. It is not clear that either patient in the Texas hospitals was brain dead or had any less cognitive function than Schiavo. You mention that they were on ventilators and Schiavo was not, but she was on a feeding tube, which was just as necessary to sustain her life as a ventilator was for the other patients.

Posted by: Don P | Mar 20, 2005 10:13:07 PM

Thomas:

Kleiman misunderstands the point of the Texas law as well. In most every state hospitals and other health care providers can refuse to provide what they believe to be futile care. What's protected in Texas is the right to seek out another facility, and a stay of the withdrawal of care for 10 days to allow such a search.

It's hard to know why you think Kleiman misunderstands the point of the law. You seem to think he doesn't know about the stay, but he explicitly mentions that provision in his post. The reason why support for the law by Bush and anti-abortion groups is surprising is that the law appears to make it easier, not harder, for Texas hospitals to withdraw life support.

Posted by: Don P | Mar 20, 2005 10:38:15 PM

When will the liberals admit that Clinton was a lying sleaze who helped to further destroy our country?
When will the faux-conservatives admit that Bush was a lying sleaze who helped to further destroy our country?

Clinton lied, people died, Bush lied, people died.

Don't blame me, I voted for Peroutka.

Posted by: Glaivester | Mar 20, 2005 11:57:41 PM

One thing that struck in the CSPAN "debate" last night by the House was the statement by one individual that Terry Schiavo's case deserves a "de novo" review in federal court because it is her life on the line. Sounds great. Can we apply that to all individuals convicted of a capital crime who are and sentenced to death? Afterall, we are talking about a life on the line.

As an aside, does it make anyone else wonder the real motives of some of the representatives when they can't pronounce the last name of the person they care so much about saving?

Posted by: George K. | Mar 21, 2005 9:29:41 AM

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