Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Fearful Power

This was an excellent editorial written by those at our conservative newspaper, the Arizona Republic. This is two in a row I have been surprised at- either they are starting to make sense or I'm getting conservative. HA! The latter not bloody likely. :-) Take note of last paragraph, great point.

A fearful power

A government that can butt in on just one life can butt in on yours

Mar. 23, 2005 12:00 AM

Terri Schiavo would have spent her life in anonymity but for the fact that, 15 years ago, she lost her mind.

She lost her mind, that is, in the sense of losing what most would call the essence of her humanity. Her body overwhelmed by a chemical imbalance, it shut down so long her brain suffered irreversible damage. What light remains therein shines only dimly now, if at all, and hope is all but gone that, after this long, it can ever come back on.

In the old days, Schiavo's collapse would have been the end of her story; death by starvation, inasmuch as she cannot swallow, would have followed naturally, and in short order.

But modern medicine, a blessing in so many ways, also has cursed us with the burden of impossible choices. Thus, Schiavo was put on a feeding tube and kept physically alive, despite scans that show a huge black hole in that part of the brain that governs cognition, sentience and intellect.

Long years passed until, in 1998 her husband, Michael, began petitioning the courts to have the tube removed. It would be her wish, he said.

That decision exacerbated a longstanding rift between Michael Schiavo and his parents-in-law, whose desire, naturally, is that their daughter be kept alive in hopes of recovery. Their court battles now have raged for most of a decade.

In late 2003, even the Florida Legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush got involved, on the side of Terri's parents, until courts ordered them out of the picture.

Matters reached a new climax last Friday when the tube was removed, for the third time, on the order of a Florida judge. Ensuing events have transformed the case into a momentous national debate over medical ethics, religion, the limits of governmental authority and even the sanctity of marriage.

When Congress hustles back from vacation to pass emergency legislation affecting but one American citizen, and when the president does likewise to sign it, we have entered a realm not only of high drama but also of real consequences.

It would make for a cleaner story line, and perhaps gain him more sympathy, if Michael Schiavo hadn't already begun a new family with another woman. The fact remains, however, that he is Terri's husband. By law and even by the religious traditions so loudly espoused by his opponents, that makes him her guardian, the custodian of her wishes.

By what right then, do we here in Arizona or politicians in Washington presume to tell him how to execute those responsibilities?

No doubt, many in Congress were driven by deep and genuine ethical concerns to intervene. Perhaps the same could be said for President Bush, though some may wonder why he, as governor, so often chose not to "err on the side of life" when it came to Texas death-penalty cases.

But raw, even cynical, politics cannot be eliminated as a motive for this unprecedented federal intervention into a family's private anguish.

And on this point, "pro-life" activists must be careful what they wish for.

A government big enough, powerful enough, intrusive enough to butt into this affair is fully capable of butting into your affairs should it disagree with whatever agonizing choice you might someday be forced to make.

We cannot begin to understand how that could possibly, in any way, be a good thing.

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