Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ranting...Terri Schiavo

In 2001, I was sitting in a doctors office in Key West Florida with my husband as he went through chemotherapy. We were surrounded by other cancer patients, since Key West has only one Hemo-Oncologist (to Dr. Stephen and Mary Catherine Krathan, all my love and thanks). On the TV comes a story about Terri Schiavo's case. That opened up a huge discussion in that Chemo suite about life, death, and the quality and dignity of both. Later, at the Hospice of the Keys ( this was also the conversation at the cancer support group. The main theme was how does one die as well as one lives? And who makes that choice. All in that room were luckier than Terri Schiavo: death was not a stranger and it was always outside our door. If one of the patients in that room died, it would have been welcome and embraced, but would not have been a surprise. All were, in some way, prepared. Several friends died that year, and my husband the following year. I faced the unimaginable duty of signing the papers to have my husband taken off life support because there was no hope left. His children, brother and sister supported my choice and there was a united front looking at him when he died. But in the end, only I was the sole bearer of the responsibility of carrying out John's wishes.

It is in that way I am infuriated and sickened by the whole Terri Schiavo case. Michael Schiavo has looked at the shell of what was his wife for 15 years. He grieved her. He knew her wishes. There are some things you do not share with your parents, and who would have shared death issues with a parent at her age at that time? The Christian right is arguing about the sanctity of life, but what about the sanctity of marriage? When someone becomes incapacitated, the responsibility doesn't just fall back to the family, its the spouse who ultimately bears the burden alone. I was lucky in that my husband was a articulate man with strong opinions who was educated on life and death issues and let his wished be know to all involved. Terri Schaivo was young and to all appearances healthy, and what happened to her was a tragedy. Her parents have let that tragedy linger for 15 years. They aren't trying to save her life, they are prolonging a death that should have happened years ago. They are trying to make themselves feel less guilty by trying to convince others Terri is there and can be helped. How can any parent want their child to live in that state? No dignity, no memory, no communication. They are flying in the face of the majority of the medical profession on her condition. I cannot presume to know the pain of losing a child. But I can imagine the pain Michael Schiavo has endured for years knowing he alone is responsible to carry out what she ultimately wanted to do. Yes he could have just divorced her and walked away years ago. I am more impressed that he has stayed for years trying to keep Terri's wishes upheld. People have criticized him for having a relationship with children while she was living. Her brain quit functioning 15 years ago. He held out hope for years, and nothing. He has gone through the fire of grief, and had come out on the other side. I pose these questions to you. Would you want your husband or wife to be alone the rest of their lives grieving you? My husband didn't even want me to grieve; he simply wanted me to put his memory away and live my life, and that would honor him enough. In closing this rant I will put to you a discussion I had with my step-sons a year or so later when this case once again reared its ugly head. And I will unequivocally state it here:

If my step-sons would have tried with me concerning their dad what Terri Schiavo's is doing to her, I would have caught their heads turned and smothered him with a pillow and gone to jail with a clear conscience, knowing he would have wanted to die rather than live without dignity.


KR said...

I have the same comment for your blog that I did for Musafir's:
I have recently been told that for a mystic, I am extremely cynical. My cynicism is coming out over this case... I challenge people to consider this... that if Teri Schiavo had been black or hispanic or asian, that feeding tube would have been pulled long ago, and if it hadn't, that no amount of pleading on the part of her family would have gotten members of Congress involved. Teri Schiavo is a poster child for the Conservative Christian White.

Tabitha said...

LOL you are absolutely right. My biggest beef was everyone trampling on the rights and sanctity of their marriage. As for being cynical, you could also be called an extreme realist.

musafir said...

We are on the same wave length on this issue.