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March 19, 2005

Schiavo Considered

Terry Schiavo, if I understand her condition, is an essentially brain dead woman who has languished in a coma for a decade, who shows little to no hope of ever rediscovering consciousness, and who, even if she did snap to attention, would be so desperately brain damaged that she could never function. Her cerebral cortex is gone, replaced by spinal fluid. The main debate about her condition is whether there are a few living tissues left, or whether there are none; in either case, there's nothing near what is required for any level of higher cognitive function. Her condition, short of an act of God, is irreparable, her mental command center gone. And yet, she's been kept alive for 10 years, running through a variety of hospitals and tests and assisted living mechanisms, absorbing an enormous amount of money in what is truly a hopeless cause.

So, in the same week that most Republicans voted for Medicaid cuts that would destroy health care for tens of thousands who could use and benefit from it, and under many of the same lawmakers who proved themselves ideologically determined to keep government out of medicine, and in a party that lauds the primacy of states rights, these same legislators are putting aside all their ideologies and all their anti-government biases in order to ensure a hopeless case continues chewing up money that could be far better spent on other people, on other things. Terry Schiavo has gone from a brain-dead woman to a political prop, a living vegetable that has somehow wedged itself between the Republican party's beliefs and constituencies, and proven decisively that their constituencies win that confrontation. Were I a Republican, watching Tom DeLay desperately clinging to a brain-dead woman's leg in order to deflect attention from his scandals, or seeing Bill Frist release smug press releases with smiling pictures of him next to text bragging about wheeling Schiavo into court, I think I'd be ill.

And now we're seeing talking points released, giving up the whole damn game:

ABC News has obtained talking points circulated among Republican senators explaining why they should vote to intervene in the Schiavo case. Among them: "This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited..." and "This is a great political issue... this is a tough issue for Democrats."

Grand Old Party indeed.

March 19, 2005 | Permalink


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» Shiavo = Political Prop from Polemic Propaganda
I hate to keep harping on this story, but there comes a point when the blatant hypocrisy and political machinations at work become so mind-numbingly evident and disgraceful that they inhibit rational thought. Yesterday, I confidently noted that this wh... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 19, 2005 6:45:10 PM

» Fluctuating Death Meter from the fourth rail
Terri Schiavo was sentenced to death today at 1 PM Eastern. Guilty of no crime other than being in an unenviable physical and mental state, the courts of Florida have determined it is proper to remove her feeding tube, the... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 19, 2005 10:20:34 PM

» Outrage calibration from Preposterous Universe
Sometimes my expectations need to be re-adjusted, and other times they're right on. [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 20, 2005 12:15:59 PM


This has actually been going on for longer. My mother worked for Hospice in Pinellas County from the late 1980's up until 2001.
It was '89 or '90 when she suffered her stroke, and I've been hearing about it since then. It's a somewhat tough issue; it's taught me the importance of making your wishes in such a situation known.
The thing is, Terry Schiavo is now more a symbol than a person. I have been appalled at the most recent turn of events (the House business) and I only wish that people weren't being so craven in regards to her case.

Posted by: renault | Mar 19, 2005 3:57:11 PM

This just makes me so sad. And it seems to have really led to some serious wingnuttery. I just don't get it, sorry -- the women's cerebral cortex is gone. She's not coming back. Time to let go.

Posted by: praktike | Mar 19, 2005 4:04:46 PM

Maybe, just maybe, we're seeing the GOP jump the shark.

It is to be fervently wished.

Posted by: pfc | Mar 19, 2005 4:43:43 PM


You are so brave to make that comment here, but not at my blog, specifically since I know you you read it daily. Your cowardice is stunning. I've got your number now.

I never discussed Terri's condition in specific, and had she had a living will, I would have no objections to keeping to her wishes. Instead, a court errs on the side of death. They certainly do not do this in death penalty cases.

If it is "serious wingnuttery" to point out the fact that the Left rushes in to protect murderers and terrorists, but turns their back or encourages the murder of the infirm or unborn, then I am guilty as charged. That was the point of my post.

Posted by: Bill Roggio | Mar 19, 2005 4:51:16 PM

I've noticed on Dem blogs comments tend to be 100% one way on this case and on conservative blogs it's 100% the other. I sometimes wish that the committed both ways get together and have a proper argument as the respective "trolls" seem to keep a low profile (I believe that the best trolls are constructive and polite).

I'm somewhere in the middle on this - I'm not easy about ending a life or in the manner in which it will happen (a quick injection would at least be more humane) on the other hand I don't think I would want to exist in this manner and there is the issue of cost effective use of resources.

The only personal experience I've had similar to this is when I had to have a pet dog put to sleep, which was more traumatic than any human relative's death that I have experienced in many ways,

Posted by: Boethius | Mar 19, 2005 4:56:36 PM

Well, Bill, I said as much on your blog -- that you're drawing some pretty absurd conclusions from a unique case.

Posted by: praktike | Mar 19, 2005 5:11:27 PM

Look, here's the scan of her brain. She's gone. It's sad, but it's over.

Posted by: praktike | Mar 19, 2005 5:12:56 PM

Well there goes my hopes of being lead troll at this site!

Bill Roggio is a top quality medium sized blogger whilst I am a blogging nobody!

I do think though my paragraph one point has been validated by Bill's comments.

Posted by: Boethius | Mar 19, 2005 5:14:31 PM

Not really, Boethius, here's what I said over there: "This is a pretty serious over-reaction to a strange and hotly-disputed case." Pretty much the same thing.

Posted by: praktike | Mar 19, 2005 5:57:05 PM

Oh, praktike and Kos are brain surgens now? This is too rich! I'll remember that one!

Here is a portion of an email reply to Dr. praktike, which may or may not apply to others here. Be your own judge:

"Concerning the Schiavo post, which was more than about just Schiavo, you don't get it, and I don't expect you to get it. You'd have to recognize your fellow travellers can easily pull the plug on innocent babies, children and disabled, while they gasp when society tries to exact justice on a terrorist or a murderer. Then you'd really have to question the character of your friends. That's what the post was about, and if you could comprehend what you read, you'd get it."

Good night!

Posted by: Bill Roggio | Mar 19, 2005 10:03:19 PM

Nah Bill, I think it's quite clear you don't get it, and are unlikely to. The world doesn't have to change to fit your metaphors, it's your arguments that have to conform to reality's contours. And here, (I don't know your blog so I can't pass judgment beyond) your point is completely absurd. Anything that made Schiavo a human is dead, liquified. What we're pulling the plug on is an unattached respiratory system, not a person with memories and feelings and identity. This has nothing to do with babies or children or the disabled (who wants to guarantee universal health care for kids? Oh, that's right...), it has to do with what has happened inside Schiavo's head.

Posted by: Ezra | Mar 19, 2005 10:10:56 PM

Bill, I grasp quite well that the issues you muddle together have only the loosest association with one another.

Posted by: praktike | Mar 19, 2005 10:14:50 PM

"it's your arguments that have to conform to reality's contours."

Such big words, I am so intimidated.

So I assume I am in the revered "reality based community"? How's that working out for you all, by the way? It must be difficult to watch the country succeed domestically, economically and in the Middle East and elsewhere, then try to preach about reality.

Enjoy your reality, Ezra. Hold it close and it will keep you warm.

Posted by: Bill Roggio | Mar 19, 2005 10:19:40 PM

I'm sorry, I'll try and use smaller words in the future. You know, so you don't feel intimidated, I mean, scared. Nice string of non sequiturs there, by the way.

Posted by: Ezra | Mar 20, 2005 1:17:30 AM

Yes, I am shaking. It really doesn't take much to be Better than Ezra. Continue with your civilization-saving healthcare and social security squabble.

Posted by: Bill Roggio | Mar 20, 2005 8:08:46 AM

Again with the non sequiturs? I would've thought that you'd at least have made an effort. And a Better Than Ezra joke? Really? Welcome to third grade, Bill...

Posted by: Ezra | Mar 20, 2005 8:20:17 AM

It's quite obvious who doesn't make an effort to defend their positions. You state my positions do not conform to reality and are "completely absurd" without even making an effort to back up your assertions. A staple of the reality-based community, might I add (please spare me your not-so-clever "Again with the non sequiturs?", it's old).

I lay out the case that the left is indifferent to and promotes and defends the murder of babies [abortion], the sick [euthanasia] and in some extreme cases children [Groningen Protocol] while opposing the death penalty for murderers and terrorists. There's a pattern to indifference towards the innocent and acceptance to killers. Whether you choose to recognize it or not is your own choice. Did you even read the post? I took the time to read yours.

Am I wrong? If so, please show me. I can provide numerous examples of leftist groups defending murderers, opposing the death penalty, supporting euthanasia, and choosing the side of terrorists over our soldiers. Do you have some evidence to the contrary?

Play your cute little rhetorical games all you like, but in the end your words are empty and you communicate nothing of substance.

I do not see a reason to continue here, I tire of debating with those who do nothing to defend their positions.

Posted by: Bill Roggio | Mar 20, 2005 10:09:28 AM

you know, Bill, when you start out accusing half of the American public of supporting "murder" and appeasing terrorists and killers, you can't expect much comity from this end. sorry.

Posted by: praktike | Mar 20, 2005 12:04:21 PM

And Bill, we have examples of Bush pulling "the plug on the infirm."

Bill, unless you give us some sense of what you think the boundaries of the human are, you have no right to give any kind of opinion here.

What's the minimum requirement for humanity?

Posted by: Karl the Idiot | Mar 20, 2005 12:29:54 PM

As Praktike noted, the burden is on you to produce arguments that make sense, not on me to disprove absurd little theories about how liberals like to go baby-killing. Also, Bill, there's been no debate here. You sauntered over to declare Praktike a coward, copied-and-pasted an e-mail, and then began calling people names. All fine, so far as it goes, but let's not pretend you've been desperately trying to engage us in rational argumentation and us mean ol' Dems have been foiling you at every turn.

Posted by: Ezra | Mar 20, 2005 12:38:40 PM


I didn't accuse half the population of supporting murder. I am sure they are many Democrats that abhore the philosophy. I accused the left of doing this. It is for you to decide if you belong with this group. If you support their policies, you certainly are an ally.

Concerning Dr. praktike, he sauntered over here to hide his insult from me, when he reads and comments at my site regularly. Call it what you will, I call it cowardice. The insults started from this blog (from you as well, Ezra the Guiltless, read your dismissive and insulting comments to me). I merely decided to defend myself vigorously. It seems you have a problem with it. Should I remain silent? Would you prefer that?

If the left supports abortion, do they not support baby killing? Or do you have a better euphamism for this? Family planning? Choice? Many of us happen to believe a child in the womb is life. Are we "right wing religious nutjobs"? I've got news for you, I am agnostic.

If the left defends terrorists by crying about actions at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib or a shooting in Fallujah, but then lead the charge for euthanasia, arbortion and abolishing the death penalty, what am I supposed to think? Please explain this to me. I've laid out my case, there is documentable evidence to support this. You dismiss it as crackpottery. But you offer no explanations for the very odd actions of the left. Please, tell me what all of this means? Educate me. I am dying for someone to rationally explain how someone can support abortion and euthanasia, but oppose the death penalty for terrorists and murderers, as well as favor soft treatment of them. I won't hold my breath, however.

Karl the Idiot (your choice of names, not mine), I stated I would support Terri's right to die if she actually chose this by putting it into her will. I beieve people have a right to die with dignity, but if it is actually their choice. In her case, she did not leave a will, and I believe the state should err on the side of caution - on the side of life. Is that enough defining parameters? I really do not wish to debate the case of Terri. To me the left's willingness to starve her while expressing concern about how al Qaeda is fed in Gitmo is my issue.

Patiently awaiting an explanation....

Posted by: Bill Roggio | Mar 20, 2005 2:43:22 PM

My natural inclination is to dismiss this as wingnuttery and direct you to some moral philosophers -- you know, Kant, Rawls, those folks. But to put this simply, each situation you mention is substantively different, your attempts to draw equivalence are either dishonest or ill-considered. If the left deplores torture and extrajudicial killings, their opposition to the death penalty makes perfect sense. The question here is whether or not society should take life in anger or vengeance. The secondary question is how many accidental or incorrect killings you're willing to sustain -- I have a real problem with innocent wo/men being put to death. Maybe you don't. As for torture, we know where that road leads, go read up on the history of the Geneva Conventions -- they're as much to protect our guys as anyone else.

Onto abortion and euthanasia, these at least have a connection. Abortion and Schiavo meet on the grounds of what makes up a human. Most on the left don't believe a packet of cells comprises a person, nor does a cardivascular system attacked to a liquified brain make a human. Anything that made Terry Schiavo a conscious individual is dead, gone. Keeping her alive is a sad gesture of futility. It's made all the worse by the fact that she didn't want to be sustained under these circumstances. Indeed, 87% of Americans would want to be allowed to pass on if they were in her position. Are they all murderers and killers? Are we all evil who believe that that decision should be respected? My girlfriend has been enormously clear on her wishes in this situation -- she's made a point to tell everyone in her family to pull the plug. She is also pro-choice, pro-euthanasia, anti-death penalty and anti-torture -- there's no contradiction there, only a respect for the living and a recognition that not everything with a shred of our DNA is alive.

As for whether or not I'm guiltless, you entered my comment thread on the attack. You were dismissive to my readers, offensive to their beliefs, and insane in your accusations. Do what you want over at your site, but don't waltz in here and imply there's something sour in our characters and then expect to be treated like someone worth speaking to. Had you at least begun with the statement of belief, wrongheaded as it is, that you just offered, you might have enjoyed a more respectful reception. As it is, your protests of victimization don't impress me. If i wanted to silence you, I'd ban you. If you want to be taken seriously, act like you deserve it.

Posted by: Ezra | Mar 20, 2005 5:15:08 PM

No, Bill, we're patiently awaiting your proposed definition of what constitutes the "life" on whose side you want the courts to err. And thus far all you've provided us with is a third-grade imitation of a dick-measuring contest.

I would be inclined to agree that the courts should err on the side of life (we could start by abolishing capital punishment, not that I ever expect the Weepublicans to get behind that idea as a party). But exactly what constitutes the human life that we want the courts to protect? And how far must they go to protect it? More than a dozen rulings have been handed down in this case, over more than a decade. Are we going to keep tying up courts' time (to say nothing of scarce medical resources) just to keep this one brain-dead woman "alive" in some technical sense of the word? And who's going to pay for her care until the point when her body finally catches up to her long-dead brain? Eighty thousand bucks a year is hardly a drop in the bucket.

Praktike is correct. Terry Schiavo's brain is gone. It's history. There's no way it's coming back to life, short of a major miracle--and I'd prefer not to make public policy on the basis that a miracle might happen, even if my faith tells me that it might.

And then there's the legal question. Tom DeLay and James Sensenbrenner have made it perfectly clear that they're trying to pull a second Bush v. Gore here. In other words, they're trying to adjust the law to suit their political ends, in one particular case, and then jigger it so that it doesn't set a precedent they'd have to live with later on. I call that dirty pool, and frankly, if they were successful in passing such a law and Commander Codpiece could interrupt his brush-clearing-related program activities long enough to sign it, that the Supreme Court might very well decide to redeem itself for Bush v. Gore by slamming it with a permanent injunction: in which case, this whole episode of sound and fury will indeed have signified nothing--nothing except to further prolong the needless suffering of a woman who by all rights should have been peacefully laid to rest years ago.

Posted by: Michael | Mar 20, 2005 5:17:14 PM

I've made my position clear on the issue of the commenting at your site. I happen to view an unsubstantiated insult on my work as an attack. Had praktike backed his words up, I would not have minded in the least. It seems attacks on dissenters to the party line are fine. What you may not know about me is that I have gone out of my way to defend praktike in the comments section of my site when some of the more aggressive commenters insulted him. He returns the favor by insulting me in an underhanded manner. Feel free to ban me at your pleasure, as I will not be back here anyway.

Did I ever say I support torture? I did not, and for many of the reasons you mention. What I said is that when you go out of your way to coddle terrorists (remember the outcry over the conditions at Gitmo - meals, sleeping arrangements, access to a Koran, etc.?) while showing no compassion for the innocent, it certainly raises a few questions. Or when you state torture is a sanctioned policy of the US governemnt when no evidence exists. I happen to believe when someone takes the life of an innocent, they have forfeited their right to remain in society, and in some cases, they have forfeited their right to life itself. I actually understand the -anti-death penalty argument and respect some of its positions. But I disagree with it.

The connection is there, Ezra, again whether you wish to see it is your choice. It is your position on questions of life or death, and how you apply these positions to enemies of civilization and innocent members of society. To dismiss this as wingnuttery because it does not conform to your reality is unbecoming of a thinking person.

I can tell you that some Democrats I know have seen the connection themselves, and are questioning their beliefs. As people have begun to see exactly what those "little clumps of cells" in the womb via the miracle of ultrasound, they start to notice that it looks quite a lot like a baby. You stick to philosophers for your justification of abortion, and I'll err on the side of caution. What you do is rationalize the destruction of life in the womb. To claim to know the exact moment when a fetus becomes sentient or "life" is the height of hubris. The same goes in cases of euthanasia, when there is no clear wishes of those in question.

Would you sanction the death penalty for Osama bin Laden, Khalid Sheihk Mohammed, Saddam Hussien and a host of other mass murderers? If not, why would you support abortion or euthanasia? What makes the life of an admitted mass murderer and enemy of Western civilization so precious, and the undetermined status of the innocent so disposable? The connection is that simple.

Ignore the views of those of us who value life and despise our enemies at your own peril [by this I mean murderers and terrorists. You are my countryman who I happen to disagree with. Disagreements do not make you my enemy.] It is a sure-fire ticket to the political wilderness, as I am sure you are becoming aware.

Posted by: Bill Roggio | Mar 20, 2005 8:16:57 PM

"The connection is that simple."

It really isn't at all. That you think it is is the crux of our problem.

Posted by: Ezra | Mar 20, 2005 8:28:46 PM

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