Terri Schiavo

Here’s the latest article on the Terri Shiavo story. For my biographers, who may not be aware (and for those of you in the present day who have been living under a rock), here’s an explanation from the New York Times:

State courts accepted Mr. Schiavo’s testimony that his wife told him several times she would not want life-prolonging measures. She suffered extensive brain damage after her heart stopped one night in 1990 due to an undiagnosed potassium deficiency. Mr. Schiavo originally sought help for his wife, but after eight years he asked a state judge for permission to remove her feeding tube and let her die. Her parents believe she is responsive and can improve with more therapy.

The Yahoo article was a lot longer when I read it a few minutes ago, but somehow between now and then the meat has all disappeared. Somewhere in there, it said that Governor Jeb Bush had a doctor from the Mayo Clinic who “believed” that Mrs. Schiavo “might” be in a limited consciousness state, instead of fully being a mental vegetable. Then there’s this bit of information from ABC News:

Michael, now 41, lives with Jodi Centonze, a 40-year-old resident of the Clearwater, Fla., area. According to reports, she occasionally accompanies Michael when he visits Terri.

Michael and Centonze have two children together, a fact that the Schindlers have cited as proof of Michael’s lack of devotion to his wife, a charge that Michael angrily denies.

When asked on CNN’s “Larry King Live” why he doesn’t simply divorce his wife, Michael said, “This is Terri’s wish, this is Terri’s choice. And I’m going to follow that wish if it’s the last thing I can do for Terri.”

I believe what we are seeing here is the inability of Terri Schiavo’s parents to deal with the fact that their daughter is lost to them. They believe that as long as she can blink and move, as long as they can keep her breathing, that she is with them. And they read into her movements, claiming that she is responsive even when doctors (every one of them except this Mayo Clinic guy, and it’s unclear whether or not he’s even personally seen her) state that there is nothing that can be done, that she is a permanent vegetable.

Meanwhile, we have the man she married…a man who knows his wife is lost, and simply wants to put her body at rest along with her soul. I don’t think it’s surprising that he has found someone else to love him. Men may be strong, but they are also weak. They have a primal need to be taken care of and nurtured. Michael Schiavo couldn’t take on this fight for the wishes of his wife without support.

I read an argument recently that Terri Schiavo’s condition is a test from God that she should not run from, that she should remain alive for the sake of her parents. I believe this is false. First, it is not her decision anymore. She is incapable of making the decision. She is a vegetable. Her husband states that she made her decision already, and he has told us what that decision was. We can’t claim now that she has the right or ability to change her mind. Second, her parents are not benefiting in any way from Terri Schiavo’s survival. They are stuck in the past, trapped by their denial, unable to move on with their lives. Rather than heed their daughter’s wishes, they’ve chosen to selfishly keep her body alive, to demean the man she loved and married, to cause our government to exert an unprecedented (and disturbing) amount of influence in the private lives of its citizens. All because they consider their own needs and desires first. They want their daughter alive because they can’t stand the idea that she’s dead. Nothing else seems to matter to them.

Sean and I both agree that this poor woman should be allowed to die. If either of us were in the same position, we would choose the same thing. Since we’re not sure what kind of reaction our parents would have, we’ve decided that the best thing to do is to write living wills, so this kind of fiasco won’t mark the ends of our lives, too.