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When Congress plays God


Fri, Mar 25th, 2005
Posted in Commentary

Congress spent more time passing legislation giving Terry Schiavo’s parents the right to sue in federal court than they did debating on whether to go to war in Iraq.For the past 15 years, the brain damaged Schiavo has lived on a feeding tube. By all medical assessments she is neurologically dead, unable to respond to the most basic of stimuli. She doesn’t know right from wrong, cannot recognize anyone around her, has no sensory feeling. Her husband believes she has a right to die; her parents believe her life should not be ended. Leading the fight are Terry’s parents and family, conservative Catholics, who have become a proxy cause for politicians. Fueled by support from social conservatives, Schiavo is the living fetus that symbolizes their right to life movement. Because it is not Terry Schiavo’s life that everyone is fighting over, but rather the definition of “life” itself. Socrates struggled with this very concept - what is life? - back in 400 B.C. Yet, Congress seems to have solved this great question in one night.Congress is always at its worst when it plays God, divining the right moral posture to take to solve life’s problems. In this case, trying to out duel the state courts that have already ruled that the feeding tube that keeps Terry Schiavo alive can be removed. Not happy with that outcome, Congress has seen fit to move the argument to a federal court. This national psychodrama, spawned by the Religious Right, comes two years after the administration unleashed Shock & Awe in Iraq, with more than 1500 American soldiers dead, another 11,000 wounded, and anywhere between 17,000 and 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed (depending on whose doing the counting). The average age of those American’s killed in Iraq is 25; they were 10 years old when Terry Schiavo had a heart attack that led to her present vegetative condition.So, where is our outrage at these losses of life? What about the Iraqi civilians, shouldn’t their lives warrant that same passionate appeal as one woman in Florida? Where is our argument for their right to life? The real question in the Terry Schiavo debate, and the one that won’t be answered in this hysteria, is whether a life as devoid of meaning as Terry Schiavo’s is worth extending by artificial means?Schiavo’s life, by any standard, is not a life, despite what Congress says.The real villain in this tragedy is not Schiavo’s husband or family, passionately divided as they are in what they think is best for their wife and daughter, but our elected officials who are willing to invade the privacy of our lives for political gain.

As of this writing, a federal court has ruled that there is no basis for re-inserting a feeding tube in Terry Schiavo. The 11th Circuit Court has since upheld the lower court’s ruling and the Supreme Court has chosen not to consider the case. On March 25, a second federal court upheld the right to remove Terry Schiavo’s feeding tube.

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