Friday, January 22, 2010

Bobby Schindler Wants Your Complete Vulnerability.

This post from Catholic News Service is making the rounds of the "god, guns, and country" blogs right now. In it, Bobby Schindler condemns the media for misrepresenting his sister's health at the time of her death.

A number of things are worth noting: the tone, Schindler's points, the fact that Schiavo died 5 years ago, coincidence with the Walk for Life and The Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation's promotion of a new annual concert (featuring Randy Travis), and the way Schiavo denies that individual patients should have rights to their own health care choices.

The tone of the article is saccharine, full of talk about the gift that "these people" bring to our lives. But the conversation shouldn't be about the Schindler family's unnaturally long and unhealthy grief. It should be about law and patients' rights. Here's the totally creepy quote:

"They allow us to show our compassion, our love. I believe that they are blessings.

“And if you talk to families that are caring for people like my sister, they look at their loved one as a blessing – to be in this position of having to care for them – because they are completely vulnerable to us."

Complete vulnerability is point.

Loving someone who can't love you back is like loving a God you can't prove is there. You can project whatever attributes onto that being you want and you will never be told a lie, never given a harsh word, never doubt their love, never wonder what they are thinking, never, in other words, have a real relationship with them fraught with all the challenges of typical human interaction.

Loving and caring for the severely disabled, however, does not occur in a vacuum. The Schindler's would like you to believe that their "sacrifice" for their sister was redemptive (and it did give Bobby Schindler a new career). They fail to mention the details of such care, the fact that such care is in many cases not possible for families, and the fact that Terri Schiavo was only alive because she was placed on life support at the time of her initial collapse, her body maintained long after her coma and severe brain damage. They work hard to tell you how horrible her death from dehydration was but coroners have said she was unable to sense any pain.

I saw Bobby Schindler speak in Pennsylvania in October. His prolonged grief was otherworldly, an unhealthy extension of mourning and suffering, written in the lines on his face, in the drag of his voice, the slow pace of his steps. His profoundly sad "testimony" was about how his sister's death won him back to God.

Unconditional love is a beautiful thing. But what the Schindler family - and so many others deny - is that there's something unnatural and disturbing about their efforts to prolong Terri Schiavo's death - abetted by a patriarchal hierarchy, the Catholic Church, that for centuries has made its legacy out of the suffering of others and the conversions it brings them.

In November, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, even as they worked to make the health care bill denominational, changed their Ethical and Religious Directives to qualify artificial nutrition and hydration as "obligatory" care. Now, at all Catholic hospitals - 1 out of 5 in the country - despite whatever a patient's proxy or advance directive or state laws say, will be given ANH if the hospital deems it necessary.

To be clear: The Schindler's fight is no fight for life. This is an all out battle by "pro-life" organizations and the Catholic Church to remove by whatever means necessary your right as a patient to decide what your medical treatments will be. While they are certainly sincere, it is their faith that they wish to legislate, not your rights as a patient.

And these powerful organizations have the ear of your legislator, your attorney general, your Catholic doctor, your emergency room, your hospice or long-term care facility, and your neighbor. They are better funded and organized than any patients' rights group out there. And their objective is to impose their religious ideology on your health care rights by law.

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