Ok ok I was hoping to avoid this issue, with the excuse that I only post a few times a year. But that's not enough. Now that the blogosphere and media has become more consumed with Terri Schiavo's case than anything since the Iraq war I have run out of excuses.
My first thought is something that I have not seen expostulated anywhere. How many people do you know who have talked about Ms Schiavo and said something other than "I sure wouldn't want to be kept alive in such a state." Come on, be honest. Nobody? I thought so. Me neither. So for those who think that her husband's "hearsay" evidence is proof of nothing, how extraordinary is it anyway? Assuming the subject even came up (again hardly an extraordinary topic of conversation for a couple married for many years), how much more likely is it that she said "Honey, if I am ever permanently braindead and being kept alive by machines, I want my body to linger as long as possible." It is hardly inappropriate for the several courts which have already decided on the matter to accept this.
Now, my opinion on Ms Schiavo's situation, given all the information I have absorbed, is that her brain is severly damaged to the point where she has no higher brain functions; what we usually think of as consciousness. This is not the same as a coma. The damage is incurable and irreversible. Terry Schiavo's mind is gone forever, and her eye and other movement we have all seen on TV is reflex to physical stimuli. She is not clinically brain dead - her low level brain functions that control breathing, the heart, and muscle movement are to at least some extent still working. And no, before you assume that I am some kind of commie secular humanist (I am in fact more like a right wing secular humanist) I do not believe that any of this has a bearing as to her intrinsic worth as a human being. Also this is more or less what all the courts involved to this point have agreed.
Let's look at the three main players involved: Ms Shiavo's husband, her parents, and the fanatical pro-lifers. I do not believe that any of them are acting in bad faith or for nefarious motives, as so many are accusing them (and especially the husband) of. It is a sincere difference of opinion.
First, the religious nuts. This is the best thing to happen to them since abortion clinic bombings went out of style. Out in front of the hospice you see some of the craziest pro-lifers in the US, having travelled there from afar for the occasion, describing to the eager cameras precisely the state of Ms Schiavo's condition and mental state. "She is now valiantly struggling for life and saying she doesn't want to die" "Terri is begging for water" "Terri is saying "Feed Me"" "No Marriage for Homos" (huh?) and so on. How can they know stuff like this? Obviously they don't really - they must think God has revealed the information to them or something. Maybe they think if they pray hard and loud enough on television God will put back the missing parts of Ms Schiavo's brain. How deluded is that. And how about the guy who drove hundreds of miles with his two small children to bring Ms Schiavo a drink of water (did he really think he was going to save her?). He coached his kids what to do and of course the police intercepted them all when they tried to enter the building, and had to haul them all away in handcuffs. These kids weren't ten years old! I hope that guy is explaining to a judge right now why he believes he is still fit to have them in his custody.
Then there are Ms Schiavo's parents. It is not possible to fault them for wanting their daughter alive. However they are, in the end, doing what I could never do. They have blinded themselves to reality in their hope that their daughter will somehow, some day, be cured. I don't know how I would feel in their place as I have no children, but I understand the strength of feeling. They remind me of the mother of the loner nut who went on a killing spree saying "my son would never have done that" - and ALL mothers of loner nuts say that. But come on, eventually it has to sink in. There would come a point where I, if it were me, would have to give up and accept the inevitable. I'm no theologian, but aren't they as Catholics supposed to believe that their daughter is going to go to Heaven and be with God and Jesus and little fluffy clouds and all that? How bad can that be? And what's with this demand of giving her communion EVERY DAY? Does the Pope even get that?
Finally, there is Ms Schaivo's husband Michael. Again I probably could not do what he is doing. Even though my mate has made it clear that she would not want to linger like this, there would come a point where I would probably give up. When the state governor, the Congress, and the President are all putting such time and effort into thwarting my mate's wishes rather than pay attention to the economy or national security; when much of the country thinks me a psychopath who is trying to cover up the almost-successful murder of my wife; when most of the rest think I am a huge creep and doing it for an insurance settlement - I don't think I would have the intestinal fortitude to carry on. My mourning period would have been over by now, and under these circumstances I would probably cave and sign over the guardianship of my wife to her parents. After all, Terri will never know.
In the end though one thing is clear. None of this energy and emotion is being expended on Ms Shiavo's behalf. Everyone has their motives, but she has been dead for fifteen years and will never be aware of any of it. It's just that her organs haven't figured it out yet. Should her body be allowed to die now? I dunno, but she doesn't care.