Monday, March 21, 2005

Why Progressives Should Help to Save Terry Schiavo´s Life

Terri Schiavo, a severely handicapped woman is sentenced to death by dehydration by Florida judge George Greer.
Her husband Michael Schiavo claims that Terri has told him before the incident which had caused her disability that she did not wish to live, if she should ever fall into a coma. Terri’s parents, however, say, Terri would never have expressed such an opinion.
The husband’s lawyers and medical experts claim, that Terri is in a constant vegetative state, a waking coma, where sounds and movements she makes are just involuntary reflexes.
Other experts however agree with the opinion of Terry Schiavo´s parents, that Terry is awake and reacting to and interacting with other people especially family members.
Dr. William Hammesfahr, an highly decorated expert, who had worked with many patients like Terri states plainly, that she is not in a coma, with appropriate therapy her condition could improve to the point, that she gets part of her mobility back in one arm and one hand up to the point, that she can transfer herself from her wheelchair into her bed.
There are also dozens of eye-witness accounts about how Terri reacts to people and also to music, together with Video-evidence which, in my opinion, present convincing evidence, that Terri Schiavo is not comatose.

Terri’s parents and brother brought up allegations that Michael Schiavo was an emotionally and physically abusive husband and that Terri had planned divorce shortly before she became ill and that he therefore was not an appropriate guardian for his wife.
Feminists should note that while these allegations could be a desperate try to change the custody situation by Terri´s parents, it seems more than likely that they are true, since they mainly come from Terri’s best friend. She claims she had helped Terri to make plans for divorce. Some of Michael Schiavo´s behaviour, corrobated by other people, like the urge to control and monitor his wife’s every movement point to an abusive relationship.
No wife should be left in the guardianship of an abusive husband when she due to illness is no longer able to protect herself.

But there is still another level to this:
Nazi Germany had a policy of terminating so-called "unworthy life", meaning the killing of retarded or mentally ill or of severely physically handicapped patients. In order to get the German people to agree with this policy, they produced propaganda films which depicted the life of handicapped or mentally ill people as a living hell. Then they asked the audience to have compassion on those unfortunate creatures and support putting them out of their misery.
The political reasoning behind this was of course not in any way compassion, it was Eugenics and getting rid of useless eaters.

The case of Terri Schiavo, who is not in any terrible pain, nor is she dying, nor is she with all likelihood in a comatose state, could become a case of precedence for just such a policy. And it could have a meaning for the current situation in Iraq or in wars that are still planned. And in this way to think about and fight for this one single handicapped person Terri Schiavo, is not a distraction from fighting to save the many people currently and in the future in danger of being killed by aggressive wars.
Many American soldiers come home from this war in body bags, far more however come home severely injured, some of them with brain-damage. If Terri Schiavo, who is most probably not comatose, is declared in coma and she is no longer declared to be worthy to receive life-saving care or treatment, the same thing will eventually happen to many brain-damaged veterans, if they are unable to talk clearly or control their movements precisely.
They will be declared comatose and the army will deny them financial support for their necessary care or treatment. The families of those Veterans are most often too poor to pay for medical treatment themselves and while they might clearly see that their loved one is responsive to them and not comatose, they will be financially unable to go through court-proceedings to prove their case - court-proceedings, which they could quite likely loose as you can see in the case of Terri Schiavo.

You might say that it was Jeb Bush, who saved Terri last time at the eleventh hour, portraying himself as her guardian angel. But he did not come in on his own. It was only pressure from his potential religious voters, which made him intercede.
And yes right now there are mostly right-wing religious groups supporting the survival of Terri; however these groups did not come right away to the help of the Schindlers, the parents of Terri, when they asked for their support. It was only after the Schindlers had succeeded to get enough media coverage on their own and therefore public sympathy, about 2 years back, when those groups jumped on the band-wagon. Right now Republican politicians are reacting on pressure by their religious base, while the so-called "liberal" media is calling for Terri’s death.
But remember, the "liberal" media was and still is cheer-leading for the Iraq-war and now saying, that no matter the terrible casualties on both sides, the torture and the poisoning of the whole country with thousands of Nagasaki bombs worth of radiation with depleted uranium, the "democratic" elections in Iraq make it all worth it.

What about the ACLU, who is also calling for Terri Schiavo to be "humanly” dehydrated to death?
There we come into the private area of our own psychology. Often, when we look at someone like Terri Schiavo, we do actually not see her, as the unique single human being she is; instead we see only our own worst fears reflected there is this wheelchair or this bed.
When people look at Terri they think or even say aloud:” I would never want to live like this.”
But what they actually mean by it is, that they never want to become like Terri Schiavo. And this is true, there is not a living soul in the world, except maybe someone who is presently tortured, who wants to become like Terri Schiavo. Who would want to loose so many of ones abilities and freedoms?
But then, if you ever would come into the same situation as Terri is in right now, you would want to live. People, who become physically but not mentally handicapped through an accident or an illness, are far more likely to become so severely depressed, that they wish themselves dead, than people with mental damage to their brain. The latter usually ready to accept their condition and take life as it comes. They feel sad, when they are neglected, and enjoy life, when there are people around who care for them.
Many of them live in their own world, which is slightly different from ours. But a loving relative or an empathetic care-giver can enter their world and function as a kind of an ambassador from our world to theirs, so that their world becomes brighter and they can live with the restrictions our world puts on them.
However, it has occurred to me, that Terri Schiavo might be far less mentally handicapped than it seems at first glance.
In an affidavit a nurse states, that when a priest was praying with her, Terri reacted, by trying to be quiet and closing her eyes during the prayer, opening them again afterwards. And then, after the prayer, when that priest was joking with her, she laughed appreciatively.
For a person to understand the abstract principle of prayer means, that she can understand her environment quite well.
But then, you never know, what understanding a handicapped person, who is unable to talk, really has. An appropriate reaction in a social situation is always a sign for a good grasp on reality.
I once worked with a lady, who in the last stages of the Alzheimer-decease. She was no longer able to talk or walk or feed herself. But we noticed that she, a former music-teacher, still calmed down and seemed to be more happy and content when she could listen to music-tapes. But then I noticed that when I tried to sing to her old well-known fold-songs myself, she started to move slightly and make melodic sounds, at times it was just like she was trying to hold the tune with me. And then, one day, after I finished a song, this lady, who had never spoken a single understandable word in over a year, now softly uttered two of the most beautiful words in the world:"Thank you"