A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Monday, March 21, 2005

Terri Schiavo and Jeanna Giese

I wasn't planning on posting much about Terri Schiavo, as plenty of other people had, and I had very mixed emotions about the federal government getting involved with the case. Michael Schiavo strikes me as at best a shmuck, at worst, something much more sinister, and I feel greatly for Terry's parents. I also worry about the precedent the case sets on killing people who are disabled, and I do not like the judicial fiat power being exercised in this case. But that's how the system works, and I am also hugely opposed to the federal government imposing itself into traditional states' rights areas.

But this morning I heard a discussion on the radio with John Giese, the father of Jeanna Giese. If you haven't heard of Jeanna Giese, you should, as it is a remarkable story. She's the young Wisconsin woman who is the first known person to survive rabies without having any sort of vaccination against the disease. It had never happened before, but just last Monday, she returned to high school. Call it a miracle, I would, or call it an amazing scientific wonder, or call it luck and brilliance on the part of her physicians, but anyway you slice it, no one really thought Jeanna would survive, much less be able to return to school.

No one but her family. Today I heard John Giese talk about sitting in a room with a bunch of doctors who all told him and his wife that they needed to prepare themselves for the death of their daughter. They were going to do everything they could, the doctors said, but realistically the chances were non-existent. Recovery from rabies just didn't happen. The Gieses refused to give up. They prayed and got thousands of others to pray. They talked to Jeanna in the physician induced coma. They prayed some more.

And it worked.

To quote Jeff Goldblum from Jurassic Park, of all things, "Life finds a way."

So, I'm no longer on the fence in regards to the actions of Congress and the President. I hope they worded the thing well, and I hope it isn't twisted into giving the feds more power, though I imagine it will be, but life finds a way. And we need to err on the side of life. The fact that the liberal left can be all up in arms about the slippery slope of outlawing partial birth abortion, but do not seem concerned with the slippery slope inherent in allowing the killing of a brain damaged, but not machine dependent, women makes me more comfortable with my position. Well, to be fair, not all liberals are on board with letting Terri die.

One last thought. To quote from J.R.R. Tolkien's incomparable The Lord of the Rings:

Gandalf [In Moria, talking to Frodo about killing Gollum]
Many that live deserve death, and some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise can not see all ends.


While I agree with your comments regarding the problems with giving the federal government more authority, I have a problem with the overall idea that removing the 'feeding tube' from Terri Schiavo is wrong. While anyone who knows me would say that I am a liberal, I am quite conservative when it comes to money. While the Republicans in Congress and the White House claim that they are also conservative with money (my/our money), they forget that when it comes time to round up support. Right now in this country there is an attitude that everyone deserves as much health care as they can ever need. This attitude gets annoying when the same people gripe about the cost of health care in this country.
This case has cost this country thousands (if not millions) of dollars in health care costs, not to mention the countless millions in court costs, so that a brain-damaged woman who cannot respond to any stimulus can satisfy her parents Roman-Catholic beliefs on death. Are those beliefs so important that we want that money to go to this case instead of helping treat kids with cancer and no insurance? And before you say that this isn't an either or situation, ask yourself how you would feel about another tax increase. Or better yet, ask yourself how you would vote next time if the people in office raised your taxes to pay for health care.
Hey Nick. Friend of Andy's here, he sent me your way. and not only am I one of those cursed Libruls, but I'm a left wing radical progressive too. Owwoooo, scary, eh kiddies?

But while I understand your arguments ( and am honestly happy that Ms. Giese recovered from her disease) I think there are a couple of cogent points in the Schiavo case that are being overlooked, and should be of immediate condern to a Libertartian especially.

First, Terri and Mike Schiavo had discussed this eventuality specifically and while they didn't prepar living wills, had been quite clear in their desires- clear enough that testimony from Michael Schiavo and several friends was sufficient to convince the judge in all seven instances that HER DESIRE was not to be artificially sustained.

[As a side note, this is just the kind of thing that Conservatives and Libertarians should be fighting the Gov to stay out of, not applauding their intervention]

Secondly, the brain damage in this case is not really related to the rabies case. It is not really just significant or partial damage. It is TOTAL. the poor woman's brain has atrophied and been replaced by spinal fluid. It's like ketchup soup. there's nothing there to recover. It's not just that a miracle, or something that the doctors don't expect, might occur, it's that it can't. It's like having the engine removed from your car and expectiing a new battery to start it up on a cold morning.

Say what you will about her husband, most of the claims against him have been exaggerated or just plain fabricated; but he has stuck with it after being offered a settlement by the parents to walk away because he's trying to fulfill his wife's final wishes.

But I feel especially sorry for her parents, who have blinded themselves from reality to keep alive the faintes flicker of hope. I once read somewhere that one of the cruelest things in life is for a child to die before their parents. I hope they can recover when, for once and for all, Terri Schiavo rests.

And I like your inclusion of Gandlafs gentle chiding of Frodo in this case. I find myself wishing, though, that all the people fighting like banshees to keep this one person ostensibly alive, would also remind themselves of those words when cheering for another military intervention, or death penalty case, or the report of further atrocities in Gitmo, or....

Anyway, I'll check in now and again. Don't bother with my blog. I update pretty infrequently. Bad Blogger.
Good comments, Troy and Costello. Very much to the point, and nicely reflective of the hypocrisy which is gushing out of the babies in Washington who suddenly feel that they must DO SOMETHING, even if it's to only make political hay.

One further observation. It occurs to me that a viceral fear of death is the root cause of all this pain, anquish, wrangling, and hate. There are legions of hapless fools wandering around out there who have never once really delt with the notion that they will die, and as such they know ONLY fear when they are faced with the final breath, either theirs or someone else's. People die, and sometimes death is the right thing. It is important, I think, to remember that people have the right to die. It's not a horrible, morbid thing to claim that right. It's a natural, beautiful thing to contemplate.

We fear death too much, and as such we end up dealing with it like little children.
Nick was complaining about the lack of conservative viewpoint in these comments, so I thought I might try one. (I personally think this viewpoint is beyond conservative, but I will let everyone else decide.)
What ever happened to personal responsibility? And let's examine that on a purely health care basis. Why do we give liver transplants to alcoholics? Why do we spend tons of money on chemotherapy for smokers with lung cancer? (Not to mention the billions that they get from the tobacco companies in these dumb (liberal?) lawsuits.) There are lots of other whys, but you get the idea. People need to take responsibility for the lives that they have led and not expect that someone (the government, perhaps) will spend all the money necessary to cure them, so they can go right back to their vices. If you want to smoke, go ahead. Just don't expect me (or the government) to pay for you to get a new lung. You knew it was bad for you when you did it, so enjoy. I personally know that I need to eat healthier and not drink so much. But when I don't, I am not going to be asking for a new liver.
I'm not saying that no health care should be given, but let's be realistic about what we expect.
This whole thing makes me heartsick.


Peggy Noonan, as usual, says it so very well.

“Everyone who has written in defense of Mrs. Schiavo's right to live has received e-mail blasts full of attacks that appear to have been dictated by the unstable and typed by the unhinged. On Democratic Underground they crowed about having "kicked the sh-- out of the fascists." On Tuesday James Carville's face was swept with a sneer so convulsive you could see his gums as he damned the Republicans trying to help Mrs. Schiavo. It would have seemed demonic if he weren't a buffoon.

“Why are they so committed to this woman's death?

“They seem to have fallen half in love with death.”

In all the time I’ve been reading Peggy Noonan, I don’t think I’ve ever heard her call anyone a name. The fact that she called Snakehead Carville a buffoon says volumes about how this whole thing affects many of us God-fearing types.

The crux of this issue for me: we don’t defend the most innocent and the most helpless among us. The babies, the elderly, and now those who can’t speak for themselves; we now justify killing them.

Liberals kick up a fuss about protecting death row convicts, sand flies, snail darters, and beached whales. But they fight to the death to preserve the right to kill helpless and innocent humans.

I am heartsick.
I diagree that "Liberals kick up a fuss about protecting death row convicts, sand flies, snail darters, and beached whales. But they fight to the death to preserve the right to kill helpless and innocent humans." This isn't about "killing" innocent humans, it's about human rights, and her right, as expressed to her husband, not to live this way.

To me, the tragedy, and the lesson learned for ALL of us, is to make sure you've got your wishes in writing and that your family members know where these types of items are kept. If Terri had had a document of this sort, I doubt that any of us would know her name.
This isn't about "killing" innocent humans, it's about human rights, and her right, as expressed to her husband, not to live this way.

Man, where is Gloria Steinham or Patricia Schroeder NOW? The very idea that liberals would support a husband’s right to chose his wife’s life or death ought to be pure heresy. Especially when there is no document to back anything up. Especially when the dude has moved on to birth children on another woman.

Pure amazing how people change their stance when it suits them.
That's interesting John. I didn't know you knew me at all. I find it "pure amazing" that you generalize what I might think when you don't know.

I do view myself as liberal, but I am also married, and value that decision and the bond that it creates between my spouse and myself greatly.

The most troubling thing I find with your post is exactly what Nick says that he is tired of, the thought that ALL liberals are waaaaay to the left and ALL conservatives are waaaay to the right.
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