A family tragedy, unnecessarily prolonged
June 16, 2005
Three months ago, you couldn’t escape it, the battle for the life or death of Terri Schiavo.
It seemed to be the only news story for several weeks, so important that the U.S. Congress, not known for its fast actions, quickly passed emergency legislation to keep her alive.
But what it really turned out to be was a tragic family feud, played out in public with all the humiliating details. Terri’s husband, Michael, had fought for several years in various courts and in front of scores of judges to let his wife die. On the other side were Terri’s parents, who did everything they could to keep her alive, including issuing all kinds of bizarre and unsupported claims that Terri could be rehabilitated, and that her husband was abusing her.
Terri was finally allowed to die, but that wasn’t the end of the case.
Last week, an autopsy report came out that clearly supports the contention of Michael Schiavo that his wife was irreversibly brain damaged. It also discounted claims that she was abused.
The report underscores the length that some people went to try and make Terri Schiavo the poster child for their cause. One can understand her parents who were doing everything, justified or not, to save their daughter.
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But the politicians who meddled in her case should be ashamed. In particular, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, whose diagnosis – based on one short video clip – was that Terri Schiavo was responding to visual stimuli. According to the autopsy report, that would be impossible since she was blind. As a medical doctor, he should know better than to issue such proclamations, from the Senate floor no less, without examining the patient. The fact that he did it to score political points makes it even more outrageous.
Tragedy can bring out the best and the worst in people. Michael Schiavo endured a mountain of abuse to carry out the wishes of his wife, while a whole host of opportunists made a circus out of what should have been a private affair. They owe him an apology.