Sunday, February 27

NOT THE LOVE OF WHICH THE POETS WROTE



We bloggers for Terri (BlogsforTerri), we ardent Pro-Life advocates (ProLifeBlogs), have been wearing out our fingertips and keyboards in a tireless effort to forestall what may be, alas, the inevitable -- the gruesome, court-ordered death by starvation and dehydration of Terri Schindler-Schiavo. We are a nation of laws and, ultimately, a court will either adjudge the rightness of what we seek or abet a husband hellbent on the premature death of his spouse. Like it or not, it's as simple (and perhaps as brutal) as that.

If you, as I, have turned over and over again in your head all of the information you've researched and linked to in this grim legal brouhaha in order to satisfy yourself that you're doing the right thing in fighting for Terri's life, then allow me to share with you what I've hanged my hat on in this protracted court battle and virulent test of wills. Indeed, let's compare notes. After all, the boxes and boxes (and more boxes) of records in this case are impossible for anyone other than a team of lawyers to wade through and decipher; and, fact is, most of us, just like most jurors, are not grounded in the law. What we do have in abundance, however, as do many jurors, is common sense and an intuition formed by life's experiences that usually serves us well.

If you boil it all down, the central issue is husband Michael's claim that his wife Terri confided to him that she wouldn't want to be kept alive artificially in the eventuality of something compromising her quality of life, just like what happened to her in 1990 -- terrible brain damage. Let's set aside the cause. Whether a chemical imbalance led to a heart attack and subsequent oxygen deprivation or some form of trauma was the genesis of her brain damage, what's pertinent for us is that he claims she'd want a feeding tube permanently pulled and her parents (and siblings) claim otherwise. Now we know Terri left neither written corroboration of that purported conversation with her husband, nor ever executed a living will. But the courts don't seem to mind that fact. So for us doesn't it come down then to the credibility of Michael Sciavo? Whether we believe in euthanasia or the right-to-die concept, or steadfastly hold that the sanctity of life transcends such desparate considerations, it seems to me the best any of us can do in weighing this protracted controversy is to take a hard look at Michael Schiavo's attitude and behavior.

Were it me, and I'm a husband of thirty-six years and married to my high school sweetheart, I'd do my damnest to carry out my wife's wishes, whether they were expressed to me verbally in a genuine and convincing fashion or more formally in a binding legal document. I think most loving husbands would agree with me. Good men strive to do right by their spouses, and their children and grandchildren. But I have not seen any evidence of a heartfelt, abiding love for Terri by Michael in all that I have read and ruminated over. Has he not denied her through the intervention of the courts needed physical therapy and other forms of treatment and rehabilitation that might have helped her? Has he not denied her through the intervention of the courts basic medical tests that could better confirm the actual state of her condition? Has he not denied her dental care resulting in the loss of teeth and, more alarmingly, endeavored to withhold medical treatment for a serious urinary tract infection that might have killed her? Has he not been instrumental in the removal from her room of all symbols of her Catholic faith and sought to deny her the sacraments of the Church? Has he not constrained the visitation rights of loved ones? Has he not sought through his attorney to challenge as not germane and admissible the findings of countless medical experts that hold his wife not to be in a permanent vegetative state? Have witnesses not come forth to verify that he has referred to Terri as a "bitch" and expressed that he wanted "the bitch dead?" Has he not been living with another woman and had two children by her, while refusing all along to secure a legal divorce from his wife? Has he not, in concert with his attorney, sought to perpetuate the notion that his wife is comatose, incapable of any sensory awareness, and unable to recognize loved ones or form words or utterances? And did he not ensure that Terri's parents could no longer film their daughter to prove that she is sentient and anything but a brain-dead vegetable? Need I go on any further?

There's something rotten in Florida and that rottenness is the cold-blooded treatment of a wife by a philandering husband. That's pretty much good enough for me to draw my conclusions. But, there's a clincher. It is this document. I really need to see no other documentation. Mary and Robert Schindler have made Michael Schiavo an offer he shouldn't refuse. But the man won't help Terri; the man won't divorce Terri; the man won't take the money and run, and leave Terri to the care and custody of the people who truly love her. For reasons I don't pretend to understand fully there is spitefulness at work here. There's a viciousness. And it's hurtful and inhuman and unconscionable. What husband, given all the facts and contradictory evidence of his wife's medical condition, would nonetheless be so recklessly persistent in seeking to remove food and water from her -- the one he took vows with -- so she can die a slow, agonizing death over several or more weeks? This is not loving, this is not honoring, this is not cherishing, for better or for worse, the woman you stood before God with and with whom you pledged to live until death do you part.

No, what Michael Schiavo has done and what Michael Schiavo continues to do is not the love of which the poets wrote, nor anything countenanced by civilized people.