This is a medical and moral muddle of the worst kind. It's unfortunate that Mrs. Schiavo hasn't left a living will, saying what she would have wanted. That would have simplified the issue for everybody and neatly prescribed "death with dignity" under Florida law. Her neglect is a caution to the rest of us.
But the Florida law is clear that a legal guardian - in this case the husband- can seek legal permission to conclude treatment in the certain circumstances met in this case. A judge ruled in the husband's favor, over the objections of her parents. The ruling was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court. That's when the legislature and the governor intervened.
We're fortunate that our Constitution divides church and state, but state legislatures and Congress are often called on to make moral decisions that in other centuries and in other places were determined by priests and rabbis. We have to look deep inside ourselves to find standards of what seems right and wrong. They're rarely absolute.
The ban against partial birth abortion comes down on the side of honoring human life, and the physician's oath to "First, do no harm." Congress debated at length, and enacted the legislation and sent it to George W. Bush to sign. Whether Mrs. Schiavo should continue to be fed is, it seems to me, a more complicated issue.
By most medical evaluations she is brain dead and any movement perceived by others is not directed by consciousness. None of us can play God, but after 15 years in a vegetative state perhaps we should allow Mrs. Schiavo to die.
We can only see through a glass darkly, and it's the glimmer of light behind the glass that makes us human. We don't always see the answers clearly, but we must strive to do the best we can - with faith, hope and charity.
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