« Kotkin, Kotkin, Everywhere | Main | Cruel Vengeance Once Again »

In Re: Schiavo

I don't have a great deal to say about the merits of the underlying case. The dilemma here falls on a continuum with a spectrum of painful, tragic choices that, to one degree or another, wind up impacting virtually every family nowadays to one degree or another. When something like this gets mixed up with intra-family disagreement, obviously, things only grow more difficult. But the rank partisanship, crass opportunism, and utter disregard for principle or common decency that the GOP's been displaying on this front for the past several days are quite possibly the most stomach-turning series of events it's been my misfortune to witness in my (admittedly small number of) years as an observer of the American political scene.

If we can draw any lesson from this appalling spectacle it should be, I think, that this is perhaps the clearest signpost of the absurd bankruptcy of ideological conservatism. Unable to devise a plan to halt the increasing disregard for traditional sexual ethics on the cultural front, or the demand for increased public expenditures on the economic front, we're treated instead to human tragedy transformed into a cynical three ring circus. In some sense, this approach clearly "works" as politics, but one day it's bound to simply collapse under the weight of its own contradictions and deep-seated unseriousness.

March 20, 2005 | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
https://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8345160fd69e200d83422aa1053ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference In Re: Schiavo:

» Tom DeLay's Lifeline from Tom Watson
Tom DeLay needs to keep Terri Schiavo alive in the worst way, because her tragic plight is a political feeding tube for his comatose, scandal-ridden career. What else can explain DeLay's utter cynicism, and his blatant use of a terrible [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 20, 2005 10:02:12 AM

Comments

Hey Matt,

Your most elegant writing to date. Wolcott and even Ed Kilgore (at TPM) have some good takes. . But this is silly. . .and it's been a long time since we've had a good Supreme Court ruling on a bill of attainder.

jtn

Posted by: john | Mar 20, 2005 1:46:16 AM

For some reason this case has bothered me more than anything else in recent months, on a visceral level. I just feel it in my gut that we are not dealing with rational actors here on the one hand, and completely opportunistic bozos on the other, and that bothers me a lot.

Posted by: praktike | Mar 20, 2005 2:01:42 AM

What I want to know is, why can't they lethally inject here if they want to kill her? Much more humane. We wouldn't do this to a dog or cat.

Posted by: Adam Herman | Mar 20, 2005 2:13:19 AM

I agree 100%. I have big problems with euthanasia. But the political grandstanding is disgusting. Do they want to parade a brain-dead woman into the House chamber? So they can see if her eyes "follow" them and declare, miraculously, that she is recuperating?

Posted by: Elrod | Mar 20, 2005 2:19:28 AM

Don't be surprised if one of Schiavo's "parents" run for public office soon after she dies.

Posted by: Dan the Man | Mar 20, 2005 2:23:26 AM

what gets me is Bush's 'culture of life' crap, when he signed a law in texas allowing the hospitals to disconnect life suport, under a bill that was negociated with the National Right to Lifer's sitting at the table.The law was passed in 1999 and amended two years ago. Acting as a negotiator for Houston-based Texas Right to Life, Burke Balch flew in from Washington "20 to 25 times" to sit at a table with representatives of the Texas Hospital Association and other parties to negotiate the law and its amendment.
March 10, 2005, 10:49PM
By RICK CASEY
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
Why can't half of the American public see this hypocrisy and circus politics, and taking advantage of a dying woman for political gain, for what it is?

Posted by: jgh | Mar 20, 2005 2:41:23 AM

I'm with Adam Herman, above. Take out her feeding tube, make sure she's got a saline drip, and anesthetize the hell out of her. Make sure the brain cells she's got are as happy as they can be as the lights go out.

What's left of her should be treated as we would wish to be treated.

Posted by: bad Jim | Mar 20, 2005 3:06:13 AM

Here's my medical wish: if I ever suffer some sort of medical collapse in a room full of Washington politicians, keep doctors Frist and Coburn the fuck away from me. This makes the "AIDS can be spread through sweat and tears" thing look downright benign.

Speaking of doctors, I wonder if it's going to occur to a reporter to ask Howard Dean about this, and what he'd say if asked.

Posted by: Katherine | Mar 20, 2005 3:07:09 AM

Legally, Terri Schiavo's husband seems to have the right to do what he thinks best. He claims this is what Terri wanted, which is probably a lie since kids this age do not project themselves in this position and give a consistent response.

Praying over this woman is an act of self indulgent wallowing in pity, which we all enjoy since we get to feel superior and moral, for our concern, at the same time. Our fellows are falling daily by the wayside, don't pray for Terri, long since fallen, but help those who still desperately need it.

If the question were: Do you think we should let this poor woman die? Most Americans would say no. But if the question were: If you are in this position do you want to be kept alive, the answer would be no from most Americans.

But if a mother wants to spend her life tending Terri, then who would starve Terri before her eyes? Heartless. Terri will never know, and feels no pain.

As for the Congress, it's part of a pattern by these pusillanimous Republicans.

Problem: Bin Laden in Paksitan
Answer: Saddam in Iraq.

Problem: Healthcare in America.
Answer: Stop steroids use in athletes.

Problem: Poverty in America.
Answer: Force feed Terri Schiavo.

Brilliant.

Posted by: epistemology | Mar 20, 2005 3:07:59 AM

"What I want to know is, why can't they lethally inject here if they want to kill her? Much more humane. We wouldn't do this to a dog or cat."

First of all, it seems quite clear that she cannot feel pain.

Second of all, it's not actually clear at all that lethal injection is less painful than death from dehydration, though it would be more sudden. We give prisoners really powerful muscle relaxants beforehand. Whereas if you read the medical reports about what happens when you stop a feeding tube, it's not what you're imagining.

Third of all, the reason we don't "put down" a human being like a dog or cat is that we feel equipped to decide for an animal that it's life is no longer worth living and actively cause it's death, but we don't feel equipped to decide that for a human being.

There is a legal and ethical distinction between actively killing and declining life-saving or life-sustaining medical care. It sometimes leads to a more painful death with no compensating gain in consciousness or quality of life, but I do think it is preferable to the alternatives.

(A middle ground is to say that physician-assisted suicide is all right but active euthanasia is not.)

Posted by: Katherine | Mar 20, 2005 3:41:08 AM

This is further proof that Congress will (assuming it remains under Republican control) pass national abortion restrictions if Roe v. Wade is ever overruled by the Supreme Court.

The "sophisticated" talking point has been that overruling Roe will merely allow the states to regulate abortion as they did before 1973--so California will have permissive abortion laws and Texas will have restrictive laws. Big deal (the talking point goes) because women can simply travel to a permissive state for an abortion; a hassle, but not the end of the world.

Not likely. The moment Roe disappears, the same arguments being made to justify congressional intervention in the Schiavo case ("protecting life trumps federalism") will be made to justify national abortion regulation.

Posted by: Dinky | Mar 20, 2005 3:57:10 AM

Am I nuts, or was it unconstitutional to grant federal court review of the Schiavo case? My understanding is that the outer bounds of the subject matter jurisdiction congress can grant is the same as Congress's Article I authority. And I don't really see how they'd cram Terry into the commerece clause. So is this is a challenge waiting to happen, or have I missed something.

Cmdicely?

Posted by: washerdreyer | Mar 20, 2005 4:55:02 AM

In some sense, this approach clearly "works" as politics, but one day it's bound to simply collapse under the weight of its own contradictions and deep-seated unseriousness.

It may take fifty - a hundred - hundred fifty years for this to collapse. Wingnuttery is strong and getting stronger and stronger.

Posted by: abb1 | Mar 20, 2005 5:33:01 AM

It's amazing how many on the left, who thought Hillary's takeover of the entire health care industry was just peachy, are suddenly noticing that Article 1, Section 8 doesn't render Congress omnipotent.

I really wish I thought this new-found interest in the limits of federal power would survive one instant beyond the moment someone you like is in control of that power.

Posted by: Brett Bellmore | Mar 20, 2005 8:07:19 AM

Politically, I would feel a lot more sympathy for the GOP's tender concern for "life", if they were actually willing to PAY FOR LONGTERM HEALTH CARE for everyone else.

My deal: you guys fund public health care and you can keep anyone on a feeding tube you want.

Posted by: DAn F. | Mar 20, 2005 8:12:36 AM

But the rank partisanship, crass opportunism, and utter disregard for principle or common decency that the GOP's been displaying on this front for the past several days are quite possibly the most stomach-turning series of events it's been my misfortune to witness in my (admittedly small number of) years as an observer of the American political scene.
Liberal Federalism.

The objection to the GOP's efforts should be that of liberal federalism. Leave issues of family and faith up to the states. States are closer to the people. Don't try to fit Kansas and Massachusetts into the same straightjacket.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 20, 2005 8:12:57 AM

Is there a gay marriage angle here? If spousal consent to make medical decisions is not guaranteed to anyone, then the GOP can argue that one argument for gay marriage is moot.

Or, it this too devious even for the GOP leadership?

Clueless

Posted by: Clueless | Mar 20, 2005 8:15:42 AM

But the rank partisanship, crass opportunism, and utter disregard for principle or common decency that the GOP's been displaying on this front for the past several days are quite possibly the most stomach-turning series of events it's been my misfortune to witness in my (admittedly small number of) years as an observer of the American political scene.

Give me a freaking break, Matt. We're not talking about pushing the "off" button of some machine. We're talking about stopping this woman from eating. Which one of us wouldn't quickly perish if we were denied food? Why is Florida even considering allowing this man to kill his wife, much less ordering it? There's nothing in writing. Only the words of a man who stands to benefit financially from his wife's death.

Posted by: P.B. Almeida | Mar 20, 2005 8:33:55 AM

If we can draw any lesson from this appalling spectacle it should be, I think, that this is perhaps the clearest signpost of the absurd bankruptcy of ideological conservatism.

Yes, that's one. But there's a much, much bigger lesson: have a living will. If you want any say about your fate, make it legally binding.

Posted by: some guy | Mar 20, 2005 8:39:12 AM

Mark Kleiman's worth reading here. I have little to add to this fine post except to note that the American culture of celebrity presented as news looks absolutely freakish, nay surreal, even after 10 years back here from Europe where I grew up. Schiavo is, as Kleiman shows, BY NO MEANS unique. The others, who are conscious, are being killed as per GWB's 1999 Texas law, right now.

Posted by: John Isbell | Mar 20, 2005 8:48:59 AM

Mark Kleiman has a new item on precisely that: http://www.markarkleiman.com/archives/_/2005/03/schiavo_hudson_and_nikolouzos.php . As Matt said, ideological conservatism is bankrupt right now and, like any bankrupt ideology, is grabbing frantically for any fake issue it can to retain power as long as possible.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw | Mar 20, 2005 9:59:18 AM

Epistemolgy:Actually I'm only 25, and I've made exactly the same decision. Most people in my social groups have talked about it and made decisions on it one way or the other.

So to say that, frankly, is silly.

Brett:It's actually about following the law. I'm a big fan of that when you get marries, the next of kin transfers to the spouse. That's a good law. If the situation was reversed, and the parents wanted to let her go, but Micheal wanted to keep on fighting, I'd support him just the same.

And that's what this issue is about, the power of next of kin to make medical decisions. If you don't like that, fine. Change the law. It WON'T be very popular (talk about violating the "sanctity of marriage"!), but special cases like this don't help anybody.

Posted by: Karmakin | Mar 20, 2005 10:01:38 AM

Wolcott

Wolcott speaks of the coming crash, citing Roach.
He also cites people like Gilliard and Alex Cockburn. John Emerson is in despair over Kevin Drum again. Yah,yah, the looney right and the looney left, and ain't we all so moderate around here.

"ideological conservatism is bankrupt right now and, like any bankrupt ideology"

Does MY think he has won? Left-center is in control and compassionate moderation the order of the day? Did the Nazis win on a well-reasoned ideology? The looney right has the media, the money, and the guns. Now, right now, gotta pick a side and start screaming. Or you won't know what hit you.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Mar 20, 2005 10:17:46 AM

"Give me a freaking break, Matt. We're not talking about pushing the "off" button of some machine. We're talking about stopping this woman from eating. Which one of us wouldn't quickly perish if we were denied food? Why is Florida even considering allowing this man to kill his wife, much less ordering it? There's nothing in writing. Only the words of a man who stands to benefit financially from his wife's death."

As I understand it, Schiavo resides at a nonprofit hospice that pays part of the cost ($80,000 per year), and Medicaid pays for the rest.

Also, if you think this is anything but a political move on the GOP part, ask yourself why those now arguing the "right to live" are the same people that would love to throw the electric switch on the 14 year old retarded person who kills someone (if the S.C. had not recently ruled it illegal to kill someone who committed a crime as a minor). And where were these morally righteous GOP members last week when a hospital ignored a mother's pleas to keep her child on life support (the hostital was legally allowed to remove life support and kill the child because a genetic condition made it likely that death would result in a few months -- and, oh yeah, there was no money to pay them). What is the definition of hypocrasy again? Please, give ME a break!

GLK

Posted by: George K. | Mar 20, 2005 10:37:39 AM

"Give me a freaking break, Matt. We're not talking about pushing the "off" button of some machine. We're talking about stopping this woman from eating. Which one of us wouldn't quickly perish if we were denied food? Why is Florida even considering allowing this man to kill his wife, much less ordering it? There's nothing in writing. Only the words of a man who stands to benefit financially from his wife's death."

P.B. - First of all, the husband does NOT stand to benefit financially from this whole affair. He has been offered millions of dollars from Terri's parents to transfer guardianship over to them - which he has denied. He has offered to donate what little money remains in Terri's trust fund to a charity of the parents choice if only they stop their court challenges - which the parents have denied. Either way you look at it, the husband, Michael Schiavo, is not going to benefit from this financially, and has actually turned down offers that would make him a relatively rich man.

Secondly, Terri Schiavo IS DEAD, and has been for 15 years now. All that remains is the shell that she used to inhabit, and there is absolutely no chance of recovery. Not a very, very small chance, but no chance whatsover: NONE, ZERO, ZILCH. The woman literally doesn't have a brain anymore; it liquified a long time ago. Where her brain used to be, there are now pieces of neural matter floating in large quantities of spinal fluid. Dozens of doctors and specialists have confirmed this (including ones appointed by the people who are trying to force the tube reinserted). It may sound crass, but anyone who thinks that Terri might somehow regain some form of consciousness (the parents included) are, quite frankly, deluding themselves.

The Schindlers are dishonoring their daughter's memory. It is every parent's worst nightmare to have to bury their child - but it is a husband's worst nightmare to have to sit and watch, for 15 years, as people make a mockery of some of your wife's most deeply held beliefs.

Posted by: Nik | Mar 20, 2005 10:39:48 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.