If the tragic case of Terri Schiavo shows nothing else, it shows how easily "the right to die" can become the right to kill. It is hard to believe that anyone, regardless of their position on euthanasia, would have chosen the agony of starvation and dehydration as the way to end someone's life.
A New York Times headline on March 20th tried to assure us: "Experts Say Ending Feeding Can Lead to a Gentle Death" but you can find experts to say anything. In a December 2, 2002 story in the same New York Times, people starving in India were reported as dying, "often clutching pained stomachs."
No murderer would be allowed to be killed this way, which would almost certainly be declared "cruel and unusual punishment," in violation of the Constitution, by virtually any court.
Terri Schiavo's only crime is that she has become an inconvenience -- and is caught in the merciless machinery of the law. Those who think law is the answer to our problems need to face the reality that law is a crude and blunt instrument.
Make no mistake about it, Terri Schiavo is being killed. She is not being "allowed to die."
She is not like someone whose breathing, blood circulation, kidney function, or other vital work of the body is being performed by machines. What she is getting by machine is what all of us get otherwise every day -- food and water. Depriving any of us of food and water would kill us just as surely, and just as agonizingly, as it is killing Terri Schiavo.
Would I want to be kept alive in Terri Schiavo's condition? No. Would I want to be killed so slowly and painfully? No. Would anyone? I doubt it.
Every member of Terri Schiavo's family wants her kept alive -- except the one person who has a vested interest in her death, her husband. Her death will allow him to marry the woman he has been living with, and having children by, for years.
Legally, he is Terri's guardian and that legal technicality is all that gives him the right to starve her to death. Courts cannot remove guardians without serious reasons. But neither should they refuse to remove guardians with a clear conflict of interest.
There are no good solutions to this wrenching situation. It is the tragedy of the human condition in its most stark form.
The extraordinary session of Congress, calling members back from around the country, with the President flying back from his home in Texas in order to be ready to sign legislation dealing with Terri Schiavo, are things that do us credit as a nation.
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