Our Death-Obsessed Culture
April 1, 2005

I'm not entirely sure on whose hands the blood of Terri Schiavo rests. As far as I'm concerned, Michael Schiavo is the Scott Peterson of 2005. He's a coward. So are the rest of our public officials and so-called leaders who've consistently remained timid on the issue over the last few months.

In the wake of Terri Schiavo's passing, I am more convinced that although she didn't get what she wanted, after ten long years, her husband got what he wanted. His motives for starving his "wife" to death, I do not know. To say he is "shady" is putting it lightly. I am however certain that he will be able to find comfort (and convenience) in re-assuming the life he's long wanted with his live-in girlfriend/fiancee and their two children. A life minus the guilt of having an infirmed wife in the picture is surely better. Sure does bring a whole other meaning to the phrase, "Till death do us part." In fact, now he can even legally marry his make-shift wife while everyone celebrates and talks about how great it is that Terri can finally have peace. Which is to assume that she didn't have peace when she was alive; which is to say that people who are "brain-dead" and in a "persistent vegetative state" have emotions.

Nice logic.

No doubt, there's nothing sad about leaving this earth. What's sad however, is when we manipulate and sensationalize death. Breathing isn't some selection on the pick 'n grab menu of life. It's not a right either as the "Right to Life" movement has suggested. No; life is a privilege, and its authority isn't ours to dictate.

It's no secret that our society has little respect for human life. We're arrogant enough to think we should be able to pick and choose when life should have a chance. Enough smoke screens. We can make this to be about necessary changes in legislation and that's great, but beyond that, we've got a great issue on our hands. Our society sensationalizes premature death.

I gave up on watching the news a long time ago. A few weeks ago in Seattle, a local man was arrested for holding his two-year-old son hostage. All the news stations were covering the stand-off, hoping to catch a breaking story. When the stand-off finally ended with the child being safely returned to his mother, you would have thought the news reporters were actually sad that no one was killed. Now that would have made a great story, right?

I really do think there is a sick aspect of fallen humanity that actually revels in the pain of others. And despite my disappointment with his vigilance on this situation, I'm with President Bush on this statement:

"The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak. In cases where there are serious doubts and questions, the presumption should be in the favor of life."
The media has been strategic in turning this into a Left vs. Right issue, but Deroy Murdock of the National Review wrote about how all different types of people put their support behind the efforts of Terri's parents to spare her life:
It is easy for those who believe Terri Schiavo should be "allowed to die" to dismiss their opponents as religious zealots who are inflicting their Biblical viewpoint on a defenseless woman.
While people of faith have advocated keeping Terri Schiavo alive, this cause is not just a Religious Right cavalcade. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, the face of America's Religious Left, traveled Tuesday to Pinellas Park, Florida to be with Mary and Bob Schindler, Terri's mother and father.
Perhaps grasping the disposability with which Terri is being treated, Eleanor Smith — a self-professed agnostic, liberal, lesbian — held a "Feed Terri" sign while she told Reuters from her wheelchair: "At this point I would rather have a right-wing Christian decide my fate than an ACLU member."
Write that quote down and keep if for later. This situation is far from over.

Posted by Ambra at April 1, 2005 1:41 AM in Culture
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I'm gald you're back. I missed your moral clarity.

I was thinking last night -- what do I want to tell my husband to do with me if I am in Terri's situation? That's easy -- let me live! But how about more extreme situations -- respirator, some kind of machine keeping my heart pumping, IV lines all over the place... There is strong peer pressure in this culture to say "just kill me" and "I don't want you to spend all this money keeping me alive" and.. I don't know. I want God to have a chance to work his miracles and keep me alive. But I also know that I don't handle pain alive. And eventually it IS time to die and I wouldn't want to extend my life beyond what God wanted me to have either, presumptuously...

And I think of my nephew, who spent the first 6 weeks of his life on the respirator, heart pumping machines, all the IV lines, everything -- and as far as we can tell he's perfectly fine now. Nothing has reared up as a consequence of that more critical than a few scars on his skin. So even though things looked grave there, obviously they were not as grave as they looked.

So, I don't have any answers. But I feel a palpable pressure to say "Just let me die" and I am inclined to jump the other way simply because of that.

Advances in technology and medicine is at the core of this tragic situation. "Back in the day" she would have died years ago. Today, it's possible to keep a person living for as long as the money lasts.

Family friends of mine went through this just a few months ago with their mother. She was one of my "second moms". One member wanted life support, others said let her go. After a few days, the one member decided to let her go because of the suffering. She died in a few hours.

More people will have to face this situation. Many people are facing it now. How many hospices are there in the U.S.? How many families are dealing with this now?

Terri's case became world wide news because of her family's media savvy. I ain't mad at 'em.

I've now made it clear: DNR. I'm going to have the papers drawn up soon.

Is that suicide or giving the okay for murder?

Thank you... It is far from over.

Hope all is well, glad to see you back...

Moral clarity is fine. Congress hastily putting a law together (Terri's Law) makes a mockery of our Constitution is WRONG. I don't care what side of this situation you sit on, we must never make a mockery of our Constitution lest we start down the path of losing our rights. I want the right to fulfil a loved one's wishes regarding their health (whether that is to live or die). I do not and will NEVER support Terri's Law. And for those that think I'm wrongheaded, when hasn't a precident been set where someone(s) run with it. You just watch and see what's next.

There is so much disinformation out there on this case, specifically the disgusting demonizing of Mr. Schiavo... all these utterly baseless accusations... the media has done a horrible job.

These sort of decisions get made every single day... most of the time, the families are in agreement.

The problem I have with this case is this: are the right-wingers upset over the lack of unanamity of the family, or the very idea of pulling the tube? Because, if the family were in agreement, this wouldn't be a story. Yet, from the rhetoric from the right, they sound like they would oppose this move in every instance, not just in cases where there is a family disagreement. So which is it? What is the fundamnetal disagreement here: the very act of removing the tube, even in cases of family agreement, or is it just the lack of family agreement?

Be careful what you wish for.

I agree with you, Nykola. The world-upside-down view in which the deliberate starvation of a brain-damaged woman is seen as "merciful" says something about our culture and it's growing taste for pain and death. Judge Greer has set a truly terrifying precedent.

jab- It is NOT just "right-wingers" who were behind the Schindlers. Did you read the post? I agree that the media didn't do a good job, but I sure didn't see any "demonizing" of Michael Schiavo on any mainstream news site. Nor did I find any coverage there of the abilities Terri had lost as Michael refused her therapy after therapy. Nobody's interested in preventing families who are in agreement about what to do from making decisions, though ideally the patient will have legal documents detailing his/her wishes so the family doesn't have to make that kind of decision. The basic issue here (to me, anyway) was that the husband demonstrated that he wasn't interested in his wife's recovery (much the opposite), and yet, he was allowed to continue making decisions for her, with predictably tragic results.

How is Michael Schiavo "a coward"? The man earned degrees as both a health technician, and an RN to care for his wife. And the technology that helped keep her alive that long is less "natural" than the stem cell research many religions frown upon.

Interesting you bring up logic. We were just discussing this exact thing today. Back in June of 96 Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes interviewed Kevorkian. At one point he tells Andy that what he is doing is sympathetic, espically compared to what hospitals do, which he described as horrible and on par with nazi concentration camps. Death by starvation - removing the feeding tubes of patients. Interesting what 10 years in jail will do for your logic, as he has now been consulted in this case as an expert and is very approving of what he once despised. I guess he realized that it was inconsistent of him to belive one way was "good" and another way "bad".

Whole heartedly agree with you Ambra

also people on the left supporting feed terri: ralph nader, lanny davis (clintonista), david boise (gore lawyer), , the democrats who voted to give terri a chance in federal court. michelle malkin has on her website a man who came out of pvs. i think it is dehumanizing to label a person a vegtable. How do we really know if they are aware. One woman on the news was labeled as such but she heard everything people were saying abouther and is alive today and disabled because her husband loved her and fought to keep her alive and help her get better with therapy, i wonder what terri would be like if she had him for a husband. its easy for him to want to let her go becausse as a wife she was beautiful and able to provide him with pleasure emotional and physical so obviously he doens twant to see his beautiful wife like that. but her parents took care of her and loved her longer ( and when she was helpelss as a baby) and unconditionally which is why they would have acdepted her disabled. this was a sad case. and yes every person and child has a right to live and not be killed or have their lives taken away by another person. a person whose hands shed innocent blook is one of the six things God hates which are listed in proverbs.

It is not possible to keep a person alive one day longer than God desires. When He wants you home, you don't turn on the call waiting. In light of this fact I have made it abundantly clear to my loved ones that they'd better sweat, bleed and cry to keep me alive. If God hasn't said "come", then I don't want to go yet.

I've tried looking at all sides of this situation and I cannot reconcile Michael Schiavo's behavior with love. If his devotion to her well-being was so great then he would not have created an adulterous life with another woman, bringing bastard children into the world. (Which isn't the kids' fault. Don't freak out on me, this is the proper usage of the word.)

If he loved her enough to kill her, he'd have loved her enough to stay by her side from day one until fini.

(For Bijan, just a clarification for my own peace of mind. Christians aren't against Stem cell research in principle, just in the practice of embryonic Stem cell research. Especially in light of the many reports which appear to show adult stem cells, of particular types, equally as effective if not superior to, embryonic cells. The necessity of using embryonic cells is, at best, questionable.)

On my blog I've opined about this issue for a few days and come up with the conclusion that it's unfair to blame either side.

No one knows enough about the relationship between Michael and Terri Schiavo to judge him. Simple as that.

On the other hand, I was fundamentally against the pulling of the tube as well as against our courts being used to dissect this case.

In the end I realized my opinion was too hard to boil down into tiny, digestible talking points and sound bites.

Though I disagree with some of what you said, your post was overall pretty good.

Back to Snood...

"Coward" is too good a word for Michael Schiavo. He's a... oh yeah, no expletives.

To answer DarkStar, Terri wasn't dying, she was only brain damaged. Unless parts of the brain that control breathing, heart, etc. are damaged, then you don't simply die. The reason Terri Schiavo had a feeding tube was because her husband let her teeth rot to the point where she had to have them removed. He also denied her rehabilitation, even though he recieved over $1,000,000 in insurance money, promising to take care of her. I thought that was called insurance fraud.

A feeding tube isn't a life support device in the same sense as a respirator. It was for providing nutrition. "Heroic measures", as they are called, only refer to things that people don't do naturally to survive. Sick people aren't the only ones who have to eat; when otherwise healthy people intentionally stop eating, they call it anorexia, which is a disease in itself. If someone decides to completely forgo eating until they die, this would be considered suicide, and as far as I can tell, assisted suicide is illegal in Florida. One more thing: Terri Schiavo was sentenced to death by the testimony of three people who claimed to have heard her say something. First of all, in a legitimate court of law, the witnesses would've been considered unreliable: one had a conflict of interests, the others were his relatives. Also, what they gave was hearsay evidence, which would be considered inadmissable. It takes more evidence than this to send a shoplifter to jail! If only more Americans would think for themselves instead of believing what the media tells them.

As to my point about disinformation, demonization of Michael Shiavo, and disgusting unsubstantiated accusations... read the post above.

I have seen the term "brain dead" used in both your article and several of the comments. This is not a medically accurate description, and lies at the heart of the legal questions on the issue. It would be one thing to say remove the tube, but to add in, she can not be fed by any means is rediculousy murderous. Are we to assume that if a woman did not try and feed her infant that she would not be charged with at a minimum negligent homicide? Of course not. Of course legal issues and moral issues are very seprate beasts. I guess I should say that I have a puritanical view on euthinasia. It is my personal religious belief that I do not have the right to decide when I die. Whatever the pain or hearache involved, my proper course is to try and struggle forward. When I see all of these people saying "I wouldn't want to be kept alive" it makes me wonder what happened to that American Spirit which spurned Dylan Thomas to write "Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

A thought's just occurred to me. If Terri Schiavo had been black (and Michael and his girlfriend still white), would the cultural 'left', most of whom, with some honourable exceptions, were on the side of death, still have advocated killing her ?

I don't think so. Mr. S. would have been presented as some kind of Nazi, not because of killing an innocent, but because of the innocent's race. We'd probably have heard the word 'genocide' bandied around. Al Sharpton would be camped outside the hospital predicting riots if she died. Nelson Mandela would be on the phone to the White House.

Sad but (probably) true.

Mr. Tall,

"Sad but (probably) true"?
You make up some ridiculous hypothetical, then make up how you think liberals would respond, and then you attack the made-up response to your made-up scenario... and then declare it would be true... wow, where did you learn such amazing logic?

In any case, I guess Supreme Court Justices Rhenquist, Scalia, and Thomas are now part of
the liberal culture of death.

It's one thing to turn off a ventillator ending life almost immediately and another to allow a person to starve and become dehydrated over a period of two or more weeks. If this person is deemed "healthy" otherwise, the process could take longer.

When animals are euthanised, they die almost instantly and aren't allowed to suffer for lenghty periods... even deathrow criminals (considered the worst society has to offer) are spared the discomfort and suffering of dying in this manner.

As for those medical officials who claim that Terri Schiavo felt nothing during that horrendous 2 week ordeal, I'd like to ask them how many times they've been in a "persistant vegetative state" to arrive at such a judgment.

Like your writing.

I felt like Terri's death was the perfect crime. Michael was mean to her at the hospice for years (no going outside, no curtains open, no visits from other patients, not even a towel in her hands to keep the fingers from overcurling) with impunity.

Then he got permission from the courts to kill her in front of the whole world. Beyond bizarre!

Jab, regarding to your 'disinformation, demonization of Michael Shiavo, and disgusting unsubstantiated accusations' assertion, I have to say that the accusations of withholding therapy and medical tests can be easily verified or disproven. I didn't see you attempt to do so, however. If you are certain that Michael is innocent of preventing Terri from recovering, you could endeavour to prove it...or you could just make unconvincing denouncements against his accusers.

I really would like to see what you've got to back up your 'disinformation' claim, concerning Michael's refusal to allow therapy.

This culture isn't just obsessed with premature death. I wanted to vomit at the amount of attention being paid to satan's (oops, I meant the Pope's) death watch. Dude was 84, so he was rich in years. I didn't need to hear every detail of what was going on with him, but it was hard to get away from.

I expect the Catholics around here to be none too happy about that comment. Although those who've been around long enough know how I feel about the topic. He's just a man; and contrary to what's being discussed, if people would just read their Bibles, they'd see that he's already a saint, as all are who have accepted Jesus Christ. And now I'm late for the fellowship with the saints....see ya.

I think he really died on April 1st.

Terri died and I believe her soul went to heaven a long time ago. What we had was a body laying in a bed metabolizing food, thanks to our modern technology and the Shindlers selfishness that they thought they could actually keep Terri from God when he wanted her in heaven.

Happy Rampager, believe what you want, but don't put the burden on jab to substantiate his claimes that someone elses unsubstantiated claims are true or false.

Many medical experts and many lawyers and judges have reviewed the information in this case in much greater detail than you, I, or the press. If Michael has done wrong, then why hasn't the case been made and proven yet... in 15 years? All we have is wild accusations and disinformation then.

To say that all of those judges, lawyers, doctors, nurses and Michael lack compassion is absurd.

I believe that even the Schindlers were compassionate, but they were also sadly misguided by their love for Terri and what she once was, and they couldn't accept that she'd already gone to heaven.

Can't compare Terri to a baby on life support for 6 weeks. In one case, there is no hope and for all intents and purposes, the patient is dead. In the other case, there is struggling life and a bright future with plenty of reason for hope.

"Terri died and I believe her soul went to heaven a long time ago."

Therefore her body was only an empty vessel and there should be no restriction on its disposal. Shoot it, a .22 bullet is only about 2 cents. Too messy? Put it down like a dog. Fine.

Now you and your associated cult of like-minded people who have this mysterious ability to know when the soul leaves the body can go around to the hospitals, nursing homes, and other caring institutions, determine which bodies lack a soul, and put them down. Yes, that would solve a great many problems (and save a lot of money too).

...not what I was saying, Dr. Galster. Though I'm open to some of those ideas being discussed further.

Lynch mobs frighten me.

Mark: "Though I'm open to some of those ideas being discussed further."

I'm not. The tone of my response was perhaps rather harsh (I don't usually write that way) but I have heard this argument too many times. Not even theologians "know" when the soul leaves the body. In any case, I outlined the logical outcome of your sentiment, which I do not find acceptable.

You are right. I do not know when the soul leaves the body and I was wrong for making that assumption and stating it.

So help me to understand better... I am not one who defines life as simply a beating heart and a functioning brain stem. Is it really life if you can't think, enjoy, taste, smell, love and feel emotions? If the medical experts and 15 years of experience tell us that Terri doesn't have any consciousness, no capacity to comprehend what's going on around her, and she never will, then explain to me what the point is in prolonging her life? Can she possibly have any joy? Doesn't a better life await her in heaven? Assuming that her soul hasn't left her body yet, aren't the family and medical technology simply holding her back. Isn't this just resisting God's will?

I've been discussing this with a friend of mine and he pointed out a statement of one of the Bishops (he didn't provide me with his name):

While there is sadness associated the pope's
passing, "There is also a sense of celebration,"
the bishop said, that he had gone on to his reward.

Isn't there a fundamental belief in most religions that life doesn't end when the body dies? Hasn't Terri now been allowed to go on to her reward?

Happy Rampager, believe what you want, but don't put the burden on jab to substantiate his claimes that someone elses unsubstantiated claims are true or false.

Pardon me if I'm wrong, but jab was the person making claims that Michael was basically being lied about...it's his burden, then, to prove his claims. And if it isn't true, then it would be easy to make a case that Michael didn't, in fact, bar the medical staff from providing even basic care to Terri, such as cleaning her teeth. It would be easy to provide proof that Michael did make sure his wife was being looked after properly.

If it isn't true, then Michael is being slandered, which you'd think a supporter of MS would want to set people straight on...but when asked about this, jab disappears and doesn't bother to respond. Maybe he or she can't prove that MS interfering with the treatment of his wife is 'disinformation' after all.

What we learned with the Terri case is our legal system is out to lunch on this issue. When a person isn't of a sound mind to make decisions, those legally placed as there custodian should be observed to determine if their decisions are made in the best interest of the person cared for.

It was painfully obvious that Michael wasn't looking out for Terri's best interests, but nothing could be done. At the same time, so many are suffering needlessly that should have their life mercifully ended. But who plays God to make those decisions. It is time for our culture to wake up and get sensible laws in this area that balance all of these issues in a manner acceptable to the broadest spectrum possible.

It was painfully obvious that Michael wasn't looking out for Terri's best interests, but nothing could be done

I have a major amount of money going to my wife if I die before she does. If she upholds my wishes and "pulls the cord" then it could be said that she would be looking out for her best interests if she does it.

The husband was shady but I don't want the gov't involved in determining such personal things.

Dude, I'm so late on responding to comments lately, but here goes anyway....

Bijan asked how I could call Michael Shiavo a coward. Well, I likened him to Scott Peterson in that he didn't have the gall to just leave his wife or at least pass her care onto her parents. It's clear Michael wanted to be free of her and live out his life with the "other woman". Living in deception is mentally taxing I'm sure. Although I have little sympathy for him. Likewise, Peterson wanted out of his marriage for the green grass on the other side. He was too much of a coward to fess up to that and figured that offing his wife and unborn child was a better means at achieving the life he desired.

Above all this, I suspect Michael S. has something he's attempting to cover up via the death of his wife. I don't know what it is, but when it comes to light, remember you read it here first.

First, we do not possess the capacity to definitively state "and she never will," as you stated about Mrs. Schiavo's recovery. There have been too many awakenings from a disintegrated awareness to ever completely rule it out.

"Assuming that her soul hasn't left her body yet, aren't the family and medical technology simply holding her back. Isn't this just resisting God's will?"


"Isn't there a fundamental belief in most religions that life doesn't end when the body dies? Hasn't Terri now been allowed to go on to her reward?"

-The problem with following this school of thought is that when carried to its logical conclusion, it would call for the ending of not only any heroic life saving measures for anyone, but also by extension the closing of hospitals and elimination of doctors.

I do believe that there could come a time when it seems as if there is just a shell being kept going by machines, but this was clearly not one of those times. She was not on life support to keep her heart beating and blood flowing, she was fed by tube.

Of course, we could carry out the meaning of "life-support" and say that the feeding tube was life support. (We'd have to ignore the lack of physical rehab and the testimony of her former nurse who allegedly stated that Mrs. Schiavo could've learned to eat by mouth.) Then however we'd have the door opened to killing those with a doubtful recovery expectation if the relied on any source outside themselves for the needs of life.

'Course, that would open the door to eliminating those in society who are somehow a drain on the resources of either other people or the state. Look out mentally retarded adults and teens!

There must be a line set somewhere in concrete. We keep setting lines in the sand and the tide of societal convenience keeps moving them.

This isn't hyperbole. Look at the roots of abortion and euthanasia, the roots of sex and violence on television, the reaction to sexual deviance from age to age in the world. Things start small, with an individual who has a "good reason". Then they become huge. Did you hear the story about the baby who was killed in hospital against the wishes of it's mother while the Terri Schiavo torture killing was going on, and the child, murdered over a cleft palate? Both stories are linked on my site. Scroll down to March 18.

All it took was a crack in the dam.

How many people look at the starving and dehydrating children of Bangladesh, Ethiopia et al, and say to themselves 'He / she looks to be so much at peace'......

For all intents and purposes, feeding tube removal is the same destiny, with the same, painful, tortuous path to death. Otherwise,
why was so much pain killer needed ?

Yet, there was a serious attempt by M. Schiavo and his lawyer, to convince a gullible public that Terry was dying a serene death.

Accept that sort of idiocy, and consider yourself an honorable member of the Let's Get Stupid Club.

Mark La Roi, Randall- Right on!

Aw man, you missed your chance!
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