Above the Fray

Sunday, March 27, 2005

A Swiftian Solution [sorta]

Much has been written on the 'Schiavo case'. A lot of it has been coarse and purile. However Jon Carroll come through with a pointed and pungent piece. He puts forth an original proposal:

I do not in this column want to talk about the right to die. I do understand that it's a complicated issue..

I want to talk about political grandstanding. I know that accusing a politician of grandstanding is like accusing a shark of eating. There are, nevertheless, limits of human decency. The president and any number of GOP members of Congress have not just crossed those limits, they have stomped on them, burned them, obliterated them. Do we have no safe harbor from the pandering ideologues? Apparently not.

As almost everyone knows, Terri Schiavo is a Florida woman who has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years. Her husband, her doctors, the courts and the man appointed by the courts to act as her advocate have all concurred that the most humane thing to do now would be to remove her feeding tube.

Schiavo's sad case is not unique; feeding tubes are pulled every day in the United States. Patients are intentionally given overdoses of morphine every day in order to relieve their suffering. Sick people choose to die, and say so, and they do die, aided or unaided. This is the cycle of life...

Politicians become involved in direct proportion to the amount of media publicity. They proclaim piously that they believe in the sanctity of life, which is code for "I'm still against abortion." They align themselves with a socially damaging faith-based theory that opposes even contraception, because every sperm is sacred. (In that belief system, the stain on Monica Lewinsky's dress is holy in the eyes of God.)

The panderers and the publicly pious created a nine-ring circus around a private family decision, and they used a helpless young woman as a pawn. They did so apparently without conscience and without regret. Congress subpoenaed Terri Schiavo in an effort to prevent her feeding tube from being removed. President Bush flew in dramatically from Texas to sign a special emergency bill allowing a federal court to intervene in the case.

Did any of them care about Terri Schiavo for the first 14.5 years of her vegetative state? They did not. Did they offer to pay for the extraordinary expense of keeping her alive? They did not. Did they sit by her bedside, read her books, play her music, bathe her bedsores? They did not. There's nothing to be gained from unpublicized compassion.
There are elderly people all over this country dying every day from simple neglect. People just forget about them. Maybe Congress could subpoena them! That way, when they didn't show up, they'd be in contempt of Congress and someone would have to go find them and at least change their sheets and give them some hot broth.
There are children in this country dying every day of preventable diseases. Would George Bush care to fully fund all family clinics, so that a baby would not die simply because it cannot be given antibiotics in time? Would George Bush care to spend as much money fighting HIV-AIDS in the African American community as he does building large bombers? Yeah, I know, it's a tired old liberal argument, and it's been discredited because well, you're gonna have to remind me again why it's been discredited.

Never mind. Let's just concentrate on people in persistent vegetative states. I have no idea how many people fit into that category -- let's say 25,000. If every life is so damn sacred, then all these people must be allowed to live and live and live. With enough government support, they could outlive those of us in persistent animated states. What a triumph for the human spirit that would be.

And let's not hear this blather about quality of life. It's quantity of life that we're after, just more and more living humans in various states of distress, but all of them joyously alive as God intended, until they die, also as God intended. But never mind the second part! Let's keep cranking out the comatose! Put them all under the care and the protection of the Congress of the United States, the fine fountain of loving-kindness.


A modest proposal by Jon Carroll