Saturday, September 12, 2009

Terri Schiavo: Tea Party Poster Child.

The conflation of government over-spending, accusations of euthanasia in health care reform, 9-11 neoconism, God, and Terri Schiavo. At the "Tea Bag" march on Washington today.

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The Right Knows and Loves Jack Kevorkian.

Debra Saunders, columnist for the

Star Tribune and wife of the ubiquitous anti-choice in dying activist Wesley J. Smith, writes about the upcoming movie about Jack Kevorkian, "You Don't Know Jack," starrring Al Pacino.

As the left loves Rush Limbaugh for the buffoonery he makes of Republican positioning, the right loves Kevorkian for the example they say he makes of Death with Dignity. He is their "straw man" in the "death panel," and euthanasia opposition to health care reform.

Saunders accuses Fox News' Cavuto of being too easy on Kevorkian in his interviews last week and says "fawning interviewers" don't know jack about Kevorkian. Yet, Cavuto works salatious terms and accusations to make Kevorkian as ridiculous as he can. It's a sad exposure of a man who has gone too far.

Advocates for Death with Dignity would in some most ways agree. Kevorkian practiced a method of aid in dying that most oppose: assisting those patients who wish to die by administering the drugs himself.

Death with Dignity laws in the two states where they have been adopted, Oregon and Washington, require that a terminal patient of sound mind administer lethal doctor-prescribed medication themselves.

What anti-choice in dying advocates love about Kevorkian is that he represents the extreme end of assisted suicide in the US; and at 81 and quite unconventional, he makes a perfect straw man for their views. Because his health is ailing they get to ask why, if he believes in taking lives when encumbered by illness and disease, he's still around, thus distracting the public from the real issue at the heart of aid in dying.

Saunders has her witty fun with the movie's title and continues what has become so pervasive in the discourse about Death with Dignity and health care reform in the US - blatant lies in order to fire emotions that could prevent elimination of suffering for a few who choose it (DwD) or access to health care for the 40 million Americans who need it.

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Excommunicating "Red" Kennedy, Posthumously.

Kevin Roeten at TheRealityCheck continues the hideous hacking away at Kennedy's legacy that began with his diagnosis of brain cancer last year.

Roeten points out the usual evils that Kennedy committed against the Catholic church - support for women's reproductive rights, efforts to reform health care (forever now erroneously tied to state-mandated euthanasia and abortion) and includes a few new ones: collusion with the evil Russians in the 80s.

Doug Patton, whose column in GOPUSA [Let Us Not Confuse Longevity With Statesmanship], brings back one of Kennedy’s most disreputable moments. What many consider treasonous occurred during the Cold War in 1983.
Kennedy sent word to Premier Yuri Andropov offering his help in undermining the Reagan Administration in its dealings with the USSR, in exchange for Andropov’s help in defeating Reagan in the 1984 presidential election. But we all have a short memory and few remember that.
What does one think of a US senator offering to help our sworn enemy in exchange for propaganda to win an election? Of course, a true Catholic would likely not stoop to such a move much less favor any intrinsic evil.

Is (wrongly assumed) communist sympathy now an official cause for excommunication from the Catholic church? Are there black racists in the NAACP?


Disability, Suffering and The Illogic of Slippery Slopes.

Disabled groups like Not Dead Yet have been some of the most vocal opponents to the Death with Dignity movement, contending that as one of the most vulnerable groups in society, they will be pushed into hastening their own deaths because they are seen as living lives with less dignity, functionality, and joy than others. Though Death with Dignity, as it exists in Oregon and Washington, is only permitted in the mentally sound, terminally ill and must be self-administered, the disabled fear that their "burden" to society will place them on what they see as the slippery slope diminishment of respect for life demonstrated by the legalization of abortion and aid in dying.

Mark Pickup, a triplegic due to multiple sclerosis and an anti-choice in dying advocate, was a close friend and ally of Robert and Mary Schindler, Terri Schiavo's parents, themselves staunch Catholics and activists against terminating life support of their persistent vegetative state daughter and other "disabled" patients, of which there are some 15,000 in the US at any given time. Pickup writes a farewell on his blog to Robert Schindler, who died of heart failure on August 29th.

While doctors may have ascribed Schindler's death to cardiac arrest, he writes, "those of us who knew Bob know he really died of a broken heart" from not being able to prevent the "murder" of his daughter at the hands of the state and her husband, Michael Schiavo, who "wanted her dead."

Terri did not need to die. Michael had moved on with his life, hooked up with a new woman, and even started a family with her. He was obviously in a conflict of interest regarding Terri Schiavo’s best interests.

The Schindlers wanted to take their daughter home, saying that their desire to love her and care for her demonstrated their superior love and deserved custody. Michael, who contested that Terri would not have wanted to live in a persistent vegetative state, after 15 years won the right to remove feeding and hydration tubes from his wife. She died 13 days later, on March 31, 2005.

I know I'm hashing old ground here - I've written about Terri Schiavo elsewhere - but as I think more about suffering and the role it plays in this argument of "slippery slope," quality of life, responsibility-to-live-despite-all-other-factors that anti-choice in dying groups pose, I found Pickup's post helpful. He writes:

Terri Schiavo had a serious disability but she was not dying. She relied on a feeding tube but did not need a respirator or other means of artificial life support. Terri Schiavo had a normal life expectancy but her husband maintained she would not want to live in such a state of disability. There was no written document from Terri saying this, nor did she complete a living will laying out her wishes. Granted, she probably did not want to live with a disability. Nobody does. So what! I do not want to live with my serious disability but that does not mean I’m better off dead. Millions of people with severe disabilities live happy and vital lives.

All mental and physical afflictions, whether degenerative, terminal, or however extreme, seem to fall into Pickup's one category: disabled. Though there was no chance for Terri to ever emerge from her persistent vegetative state, her life was sacred to her family. We could say that Terri's life could not matter to her in her diminished mental state but that it mattered to her family.

Pickup argues for the sanctity of all lives even as he states that some disabled live happily and vitally and that Schiavo never recorded her wishes to be removed from life support. Quality of life and personal choice are, like Palin's statement that she chose to have a Down Syndrom child though she doesn't believe in choice, used to garner praise or prop up the hope for a miracle recovery. Ultimately, this narrative concludes that it's not the vitality or happiness that makes a life worth living, not the autonomy of humans and the choice to live, but the suffering that one undergoes. That Schindler suffered, that Pickup suffers, that Michael Schiavo loved again and "hooked up" with another woman to avoid suffering; these acceptances or denials of suffering are used to determine one's value. If suffering has a purpose given by God, trying to escape suffering is gonna get you in trouble.

Pickup's blog subtitle is, "Reflections on disability, Christian meaning and purpose in suffering. Christian subjects." As Christian subjects - all of us, regardless of faith - we are given suffering from God and according to his laws must bear that suffering. Only he can end it or end our lives. In other words, as a good parent/lover, God knows what is best for us and gives us suffering if we deserve it. And he gives us no more than we can bear. Church tenets and a judicious patriarchy interpret God's will and govern us accordingly.

The "martyrdom" of Schiavo is retold by Pickup: "Christians and other people of good will gathered outside the hospice to protest the torture and murder of an innocent and defenceless woman, unable to speak or fight for herself." Though doctors concur that Schiavo was unable to sense pain, her family and activists contend that she suffered miserably from dehydration and hunger until her death at the hands of the "culture of death." Her physical suffering - and that of her family and activists - is vital to her martyrdom (and theirs). Suffering is proof of the rightness and worthiness of their cause.

Interspursed with images of Robert Schindler and the Statue of Liberty weeping, Pickup's post reminds us of the role suffering plays in redemption and personal autonomy. Their fight against Death with Dignity (in spite of the fact that it requires self-administering) is a fight for suffering, for what they call the "natural" law of God and His right to cut the thread.

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