To the Editor: This letter is in response to Anthony Maalouf’s “Culture of Death is Now a Reality” article in the 5 Apr 2005 issue of the Quad, and a little in response to a similar article of his in the 22 Mar 2005 issue.
Anthony starts off by saying that “there is no mercy in starving a feeble woman” and “murderers are shown more humane ends to their lives.” What Anthony is conveniently ignoring is the fact that euthanasia is illegal in Florida, and that allowing her to starve was the only legal way of allowing Terri to die. His hollow, fallacious appeal to emotion doesn’t mean much after considering that.
Anthony continues with the emotional appeals by trying to spin Terri’s parents as just trying to save their poor daughter’s life, while completely ignoring what Michael did for his wife. Michael pursued aggresive therapy for Terri for eight years after her collapse. When nothing worked, he filed a court petition for a trial to determine whether or not to remove the tube. Two years later, it was decided that it should. After fighting off her parents and having the tube removed and reinserted multiple times over the next five years, it was removed for the last time. Keep in mind that the whole point of having a trial was to determine the accuracy of diagnosis, and Terri’s wishes because she like most people at the time did not have a living will.
And what about all the falsehoods her parents have spewed? For example, they took minutes of Terri’s “responses” out of 4 hours of footage that is actually consistent with a PVS diagnosis (http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/coma/coma.htm), allowed it to be aired against Terri’s privacy, and watching that is clearly enough to let people like Bill Frist and even Anthony (his 22 Mar article) make medical opinions more educated than the dozens of doctors who have examined this case for years! In other news, the sun actually revolves around the Earth — just look in the sky, it rises in the east, circles overhead, and sinks in the west. All those ivory tower atheist activist scientists of death are just lying to us if they controversially claim otherwise. It is Anthony’s prerogative to ignore facts that weaken his viewpoint, but I can still raise strong objection to the claim that the Schindlers are the ones who are love her the most.
Anthony then proceeds to try and dismiss the notion that actions of Congress in this case were political, claiming instead that they were acting on principle. In order to make such a claim, he has to ignore traditional republican principles such as reducing government and increasing state rights. Even if he doesn’t believe in the conservative principle of you know, tradition, there’s that whole “sanctity of marriage!” idea that has been popping up a lot recently (unless you pretend Michael did nothing to try and help Terri). Not to mention that most republicans, including George W Bush, favor the death penalty, which isn’t really indicative of a “culture of life.” For that matter, conservatives are now trying to get Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy (a Reagan nomination) impeached for things such as opposing the death penalty for 16-17 year olds. So much for how we treat the least in our society!
There are also principles more directly tied with this case. Continuing on “how they treat the least of us,” are republicans going to advocate universal health care? And why make a bill that applies only to Terri, ignoring the thousands of others in this country that are in a PVS? And while George W Bush and Tom Delay do not represent all republicans, they are among the most notable intruding into this case. That makes it kind of hard to ignore the ideology conflict that results when you realize that Delay decided to end his own father’s life and that while governor, George W Bush signed a bill allowing hospitals to remove life support even against the wishes of family members if the family couldn’t pay for the care. Though to be fair, the intervention attempt of Congress in this case does perpetuate the principles of hypocrisy and religious right pandering that a lot of republicans in power seem to support. Still, it’s really an accomplishment of sorts to favor those over so many other decent republican principles as well as principles of practicality.
And after that, what better way to end such a faulty article with the faultiest and most obvious guilt by association we can imagine? Actually, it’s even worse than that, he’s suggesting that Terri was allowed to die solely because she was disabled. Terri’s cerebral cortex is gone — not damaged, GONE. Since it’s the part of the brain which processes thought and holds things like memory and personality, I would suggest that she was alive only in a superficial way. And as a preemptive strike, I’d like to note that zero capacity for thought is quite different than partial capacity for thought, and refer you back to the link describing PVS.
As a final point, I’d like to adress his offensive and superfluous use of “culture of life/death.” Death in the non-metaphorical sense is the end of life. You can define death in terms of life with a simple nonslippery substitution, and there is no getting around the inseparable interconnectedness of the two. To allow someone like Terri to die rather than forcing her to be on life support (http://abstractappeal.com/schiavo/infopage.html) is to address if not exactly understand and respect the bounds and limits that are a part of life. Extending her or anyone else’s life unnaturally and also against her wishes (and again, that was the whole damn purpose of the trial) is what devalues life, and denies its boundaries. So despite it being the conservative catch phrase of the month, this is not really an issue of “culture of life” and “culture of death,” it’s more like a “culture of denial” vs a “culture of decency.” Take a hint Anthony: there has not been a public outcry from the culture of decency (see, I can use catchphrases too!) to in general advocated the allowing-to-die of any/all disabled people, much less the killing, denying rights, or devaluing of them.