[Marxism] More on Terri Schiavo

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Mar 20 10:08:22 MST 2005

March 18, 2005

In the latest of the truly obscene Republican exploitations of human 
suffering to get votes, the House of Representatives' GOP leadership 
announced this morning that they'd issue a subpoena for a human 
vegetable--the unfortunate Terri Schiavo, a Florida housewife whose brain's 
ability to function was destroyed fifteen years ago when a massive heart 
attack deprived it of oxygen. Led by Speaker Dennis Hastert, Tom "The 
Hammer" DeLay, and House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis of 
Virginia, the Republicans thus proposed to bring a woman who is brain-dead 
to Washington to testify. This is torture more vile than anything that was 
inflicted at Abu Ghraib.

This morning's announcement was followed by a terror ukase from Republican 
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist--in it, he made explicit a threat against 
Shiavo's doctors to have them prosecuted if they "obstructed" a Senate 
"investigation" of the Schiavo case by precluding her responding to an 
"invitation" to testify before a Senate committee. Frist, himself a medical 
doctor, was born rich, and got richer, from a family business that 
committed criminal fraud--the Health Corporation of America, which is the 
largest for-profit hospital chain in the country, with a criminal history I 
have documented for the L.A. Weekly. Dr. Frist's money comes from 
defrauding Medicaid, Medicare, and Tricare (the federal program covering 
the military and their families). Coming from Fraud-boy Frist, pretensions 
of concern for a "right to life" are particularly vile. As to DeLay, he'd 
much rather wave the "right to life" flag in front of Schiavo's sightless 
eyes to distract voters from his own spavined ethics as the most corrupt 
man in Washington and the multiple investigations of which he is now a 
target. The Republican party would much rather have people talking about 
Schiavo than about their proposed destruction of Social Security, or their 
cutting the budget for children's health care, which will cause some of 
those kids denied medical attention to die. Much better to try to force 
medical attention on a woman who, as she made clear to her husband, doesn't 
want it.

In jumping into the Schiavo case, the Republicans are simply once again 
engaging in crass pandering to the Taliban of the religious right--which 
has coalesced around this case--in an attempt to win votes by extending the 
grip of theocracy on our country. And as Schiavo's husband's attorney said 
moments ago on CNN, there was no congressional investigation--it was 
trumped up by the Republicans to grab headlines, by interfering in a 
particular case to prolong the torture by forcing a patient to submit to 
medical care she had previously said she did not want. This, as Felos said, 
was "thuggery"--and it could happen to you. The attempts to prolong 
Schiavo's life against her will, and that of her husband, are cruel and 
unusual punishment.

Schiavo's husband, who has fought for seven years for her right to die, 
seems by all accounts to be a loving partner of the kind we would all wish 
to have. As a profile of Michael Schiavo by ABC News reported, in 1990, 
after "doctors determined that Terri had entered a persistent vegetative 
state, Michael flew Terri to California for experimental surgical 
treatments, sleeping on a cot in her hospital room.

"Even after doctors in California determined surgery would do nothing to 
help Terri, Michael continued to seek help. He admitted Terri to a Florida 
brain-injury center and hired an aide to take her out to parks and museums, 
in the hope it might stimulate her reawakening. It didn't....

"With his wife in a nursing home, Michael began taking classes in health 
care at St. Petersburg Junior College. He eventually became a certified 
respiratory therapist and a registered nurse. Michael today works in an 
emergency room at a hospital in Florida.

"He has said his own mother's death from cancer helped him come to terms 
with death and dying. In 1998, Michael began to petition the court for the 
removal of the feeding tube that had kept Terri alive for eight years...." 
An admirable fellow, it would certainly seem.

I have long believed that the right to die with dignity to avoid pain and 
decay is a legitimate personal choice: Every person his own Kevorkian, 
that's my motto. I have a living will and a medical power of attorney in an 
attempt to make sure I will not suffer a fate like Schiavo's: fifteen years 
of torture imprisoned in a functionless body. But there have been any 
number of studies -- including one sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson 
Foundation -- showing that living wills are honored by hospitals only about 
half the time. Hospital administrators are often afraid of lawsuits by 
religiously-minded members of a patient's family who wish to substitute 
their beliefs for the patient's. (AIDS has made the right-to-die issue 
particularly critical for gay people, who--because they cannot marry and 
therefore have no legal standing--have no voice in ending their partner's 
suffering when all hope is gone, and are often over-ruled by parents.) Many 
medical practitioners are cowards who don't want the responsibility of 
honoring a patient's expressed wish to die. Others--an increasing 
number--arrogate to themselves the right to deny medical care (like 
medically necessary abortions), or withdraw artificial life support, 
because they feel sucn actions violate their personal religious beliefs . 
And the Congressional Republicans' actions today are also designed to 
terrorize even more doctors into disregarding living wills. The invasion of 
the health care field by rampant theocracy even extends to pharmacists, who 
are refusing to fill prescriptions for medications that prevent conception 
and other drugs to which any citizen has a presumptive right.

This interference with a human being's right to die, and not to be forced 
to undergo a prolonged simulacrum of life against their will, should be 
unacceptable in a civilized society. But your only way of being sure your 
right to die will be respected is to back up your living will with other 
means of ending your life, if you can find a loyal, loving relative or 
friend who will administer them to you should you be in a physical state in 
which you cannot do so yourself.  If you wish to take precautions to be 
sure you can avoid unnecessary and unwanted pain and suffering, you should 
visit the website of End of Life Choices, which combines a number of 
organizations, including the Hemlock Society, that work for the right to a 
dignified death.

And you should act on attorney Felos's superb, heartfelt appeal on CNN this 
afternoon: write your Senators and Congressmen and insist that the specter 
of forced medical care exacted by vote-seeking politicians be forbidden by 
law. Tell them that you will not tolerate their barbaric interference with 
your right to die. Because the spectacle we've witnessed in the last 24 
hours on Capitol Hill in the Schiavo case shows that it is Congress which 
is also in a vegetative state.

P.S. In response to a Florida judge's order this afternoon to remove 
Schiavo's artificial feeding tube--which was done in the presence of her 
doctors, despite the Republican Congress's threats of prison terms for 
them--Tom DeLay just announced, live on CNN at 5:51, that the 
Republican-controlled House "will pass on Monday" a new bill to keep 
Schiavo alive. That makes it even more urgent you let your representatives 
know now that you are opposed to this totalitarian interference with a 
decision that should be solely personal and medical.

Louis Proyect
Marxism list: www.marxmail.org 

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