Saturday, June 11, 2005[posted by jaed at 4:26 PM]
Theresa Schiavo, Revisited
The New York Review of Books has a thoughtful article on the case of Theresa Schiavo that's well worth reading for its attachment to cold fact - the author seems to have actually done research, something not in much evidence among pundits while Schiavo was dying - and for its careful consideration of difficult matters attached to the case and how those impacted the political reaction and, ultimately, the failure of the political process to help her.
A long excerpt:
That this was a situation offering space for legitimate philosophical differences seemed obvious. Yet there remained, on the 'rational' side of the argument, very little acknowledgment that there could be large numbers of people, not all of whom could be categorized as 'fundamentalists' or 'evangelicals,' who were genuinely troubled by the ramifications of viewing a life as inadequate and so deciding to end it. There remained little acknowledgment even that the case was being badly handled, rendered unnecessarily inflammatory. There was an insensitivity in the timing of the removal of the feeding tube, which took place on the Friday before Palm Sunday, meaning that the gradual process of dying coincided with a week that for Christians has specifically to do with sacrificial suffering and death. 'Oh come on,' someone said when this was mentioned on a cable show. There was a further insensitivity in the fact that the tube was removed at all. If the sole intention is to terminate feeding and hydration, there is no need to remove a gastric feeding tube. All anyone need do is stop plunging the formula into the tube. Hospitals routinely leave gastric tubes in place long after patients have progressed to oral feeding, because any later need to replace the tube (after the incision has begun to heal and scar tissue to form) can be difficult and require surgery. In this case, in the absence of some unusual circumstance that remained unreported, the sole purpose of actual removal would seem to have been to make any legally ordered resumption of feeding difficult to implement.RTWT.
These were symbolic points, messages only, but messages make things happen. It was the physical removal of the tube that led to the perceived inexorability of the countdown. It was the convergence of that countdown with the holiest week in the Christian calendar that exacerbated the 'circus,' the displays of theatrical martyrdom outside the hospice. It was the ability to dismiss the scene outside the hospice as a 'circus' that made the case so ready a vehicle for the expression of 'disgust.' Old polarizations took over. Differences became intolerances. Before the end of the first news cycle, those who believed the removal of the feeding tube to be a morally correct decision were being referred to as 'murderers,' and those troubled by the decision, even those of no perceptible religiosity, as 'fundamentalist freaks,' 'evangelical mullahs.'