Compassion lacking in Schiavo case


Ottawa Sun | March 27, 2005
By Earl McRae

On this Easter Sunday, Terri Schiavo is dying. But, I'm not smart. I want Terri Schiavo kept alive. I'm not as smart as the judges and doctors and her husband who've decided they won't do what has to be done to let Terry Schiavo continue living, so they're going to let her starve to death.

This is called compassion. Starving her to death. She murdered nobody. Had she murdered somebody, she'd be taken to a nice, bright room and placed on a gurney and given a lethal injection so that she would just go nicely to sleep and not wake up.

I'm not smart. I don't understand what they're doing to Terri Schiavo. There are people who would. The Nazis. The Nazis of the concentration camps. Those who don't want Terri Schiavo alive anymore say it's because she's a "vegetable" and she is always going to be a vegetable and the vegetable Terri Schiavo will feel no pain as they starve her to death.

I'm not smart because I don't think these are any good reasons to let Terri Schiavo die. I think of Joe Bonham. Joe Bonham in Dalton Trumbo's novel Johnny Got His Gun. The most powerful anti-war novel of the 20th century. Joe Bonham, the young American soldier who was blown up by a landmine in World War I.

Joe Bonham with no legs. No arms. No nose. No mouth. No tongue. No speech. No sight. No hearing. No taste. No face. Joe Bonham, brain damaged. Joe Bonham, torso. Joe Bonham, vegetable.

Kept breathing

Joe Bonham, who, for "experimental" purposes, was kept breathing in a military hospital for years, who was considered a useless living dead, who some wanted to kill, Joe Bonham who could think, who could remember, who could dream, who could feel the change in temperature, the welcoming smooth, clean sheets against what was left of him, the vibrations of footsteps approaching his bed, the gentle breezes from his window.

Joe Bonham who wanted to live, Joe Bonham, "vegetable," Joe Bonham who feared they'd end his life, Joe Bonham, "experiment," who lay in that hospital bed for years, who tried to communicate through Morse Code by tapping his head against his pillow, whose signals were misconstrued as seizures, whose signals finally broke through to a nurse only to have a doctor decide it was not worth Joe Bonham living anymore and put him to sleep eternally.

Terri Schiavo does not know Morse Code. Terri Schiavo, whose parents insist they've recognized awareness to their touches, their words. Terri Schiavo's parents who have committed their lives to caring for her, loving her, and will do so as long as they live, and she lives, and if her parents die, her brother and her sister, "vegetable" or not, because she is their little girl, their flesh and blood, and the flesh and blood of her brother and sister, and nothing should trump that fact in the decision-making over the life or death of Terri Schiavo.

But, I'm not smart. I'm not smart because I don't believe her husband, who is not her flesh and blood, her husband who has moved on in a new life for himself, should have the final say, which is to have her die because she's a "vegetable" and wouldn't want to be a "vegetable," this man, and these doctors, and these judges, who take their cues from textbooks and charts and graphs and machinery and are not inside the head and body of Terri Schiavo.

These people who are absolutely unable to say that there will be no major breakthrough in neurology from medical scientists working in laboratories around the world that would one day bring Terri Schiavo out of her long coma, and to a life she'd find worth the living.

These people who, this week, dismissed the court-document medical view of Dr. William Cheshire, a neurologist with the renowned Mayo Clinic, that Terri Schiavo is not in a vegetative state, but a "minimally conscious state."

I'm not smart, but I do know it is Easter Sunday and down in Florida, they're starving Terri Schiavo to death.

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