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If only Terri had murdered someone

Posted By Burt Prelutsky On 03/23/2005 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

Early on, I must confess, I didn’t take much interest in Terri Schiavo. All I’d heard was that she was a vegetable, brain-dead, totally unaware of her surroundings. I did hear rumors that her husband Michael wanted her taken off life support because he could then inherit whatever remained of a very sizeable insurance settlement. But, so what? And so what if he was shacked up with some other woman and had sired two kids with her? No matter what a lout he might be, the only important question was whether Mrs. Schiavo would or would not be better off dead.

I have now come to the conclusion that she wouldn’t be.

It’s not just that her parents and siblings want her to live, but I’ve seen Terri on television responding warmly to her loved ones. That is not a carrot or a turnip in that bed; that’s a human being in every sense of the word.

Before, when she was just a name to me, I had assumed she required all sorts of machinery to keep going. I now realize she only needs a feeding tube, for crying out loud! It is now abundantly apparent that if Terri Schiavo dies, she will have been murdered.

Since coming to this belated realization, I’ve had people ask me if I would want to continue living if I were in her condition. My honest answer is that I don’t know. And if I can’t even be certain about myself, how can anybody pretend to know what Mrs. Schiavo really wants?

In this area, there are a lot of things I’m not sure about. I’m not sure I would have wanted to live if I’d been Christopher Reeve after the horse accident. But he sure wanted to. I’m not certain I’d have wanted to live if I’d been born Stephen Hawking or Helen Keller, or if I’d want to keep fighting to live if I were Pope John Paul II, but I’m not them.

I’ve heard Michael Schiavo claim that, in conversation, many years ago, Terri said she wouldn’t want to live if it required extreme measures to keep her alive. Well, for one thing, a mere feeding tube doesn’t constitute what most of us, or medical science, would regard as a life-support system. Otherwise, everyone in a hospital being fed intravenously would be a likely candidate for euthanasia. For another thing, even if she said it, a passing comment made by a woman in her 20s should not serve as a death warrant for the same woman in her 40s.

If only Terri Schiavo had murdered a few people before she had her accident, there’d be no controversy. She would not only be guaranteed 25 or 30 years of life while her appeals wended their way through the courts, but at the end of that time, if worse came to worst, she would be given a painless injection, not starved to death.

As far as I can see, the entire basis for the case being argued by those wanting her dead is that she can’t walk, she can’t talk, and she obviously can’t feed herself.

Well, if those are sufficient grounds for exterminating Terri Schiavo, they provide equally good reasons for murdering every baby in the world!


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