out, out, brief candle


Opinion About Terri Schiavo No. 195,783,483

I’m sorry, but I have fucking had it. For those of you living in a Unabomber-style hut with no access to the in-tor-net, Terri Schiavo is a woman who starved herself nearly to death 15 years ago, went into a potassium coma, and has been in a “persistent vegetative state” since. Her husband has been fighting to take her off life support, but her parents have sued to keep all the tubes in.

She is awake, but utterly without recognition, speech, or any sign of self-awareness. She does not see, does not care about anything, cannot register thoughts, and stayed “alive” only because they drilled a hole in her stomach and fed her liquids. Now the court ordered the feeding tube out, and America has promptly lost its shit. The most unforgivable thing the media has done (among a host of unforgivable activities) is to constantly reuse this picture:


This image has become the de facto representation of Schiavo, as she appears to be looking straight into her mother’s eyes and registering pleasure. In fact, Schiavo is looking right through her mother and doesn’t even know she’s there. She doesn’t even know that she herself is there. It’s a stunning lapse in media ethics when this picture is used as tacit proof that Terri knows anything about anything, and has been the torch around which countless numbers of disturbed right-wingers have flocked like pathetic moths.

In an era when we’ve killed so many innocent Iraqis, when the bodies pile up in Central Africa, and 350 million Chinese have no safe drinking water, how the fuck does Congress get hijacked by this woman’s parents? Republican lawmakers intend to ride Schiavo’s lifeless carcass as far as it will take them, and it would be laughable if it weren’t so ineffably sad.

And contradictory. Bush himself signed a right-to-die act as Governor of Texas, but we’ve come to expect such brazen acts of flip-flopping from him. Worse are the legions of rabid conservatives, the very same assholes who have no problem executing as many Death Row inmates as possible. It’s so fucking sickening.

Would there still be morons wearing their plaid shirts buttoned to the top, trying to sneak bread and water into Terri Schiavo’s hospital if she were African American? Or a MAN, for that matter?

Why are conservatives like this? What led them to be such CONTROL FREAKS? It’s as if their own lives are so infinitesimally small that they can find meaning only in fucking with the private tragedies of the rest of us. When are Americans, even those of you in the Red States, going to wake up to the fact that your blessed Republicans are making government more intrusive and unwieldy ONE FREAKISH ISSUE AT A TIME?

If I ever get even close to Schiavo’s state, I want it known, here on the blog and searchable for centuries, that you can feel free to kick that fucking plug out of the wall socket. Our Woods Warrior has a thought-provoking post about this, stating that many people who have tried to commit suicide change their minds as they leap off the bridge. In the throes of the moment, we may be substantially elastic in what we thought we wanted. I can grok this all right, but still, I HEART SCIENCE, and if Science says that I won’t be able to tell the difference, yank out that feeding tube and have a big party in my honor. With Jaegermeister.

0 thoughts on “out, out, brief candle

  1. stephanie

    I’m with you on this one, Ian, but I have an incredibly naive question: Why can’t Terry’s parents simply take her home and let her hang on for as long as she can with them taking care of her? If her own feelings on the matter weren’t written down, and if we doubt, ever-so-slightly, her husband’s motives in wanting the whole horrible thing to be over (and who can blame him?), wouldn’t it be legal and possible for her parents to say, we’ll take it from here, thanks, and take the poor woman home? Would it be inhuman to allow them to cling to her, and to allow her to remain alive in her present state, however you want to define it? Your baby isn’t here yet, but take it from me, your learning curve on this is issue is going to head straight up the moment she arrives: letting your child go is the biggest bit of growing-up that you and your wife are going to have to go through in the years to come. In a case like this, when there’s still breath left in her body, it would be close to impossible. But fifteen years? That’s long enough. These two people need to get a grip and tell themselves it’s time.
    Obviously, they’re not ready to do that. Why can’t they take her home and assume 100% of the burden themselves, then? Who’s paying for her care? I hate to sound crass, but if it’s Society, I’d say there definitely needs to be a cut-off point here. As you said, dead bodies are piling up around the globe. It’s time for her family to let the poor woman go and throw themselves into some other nobel cause. One that might help two people this time, instead of one. My God, the entire family has become one, colossal martyr. Is such a thing even possible? Have there ever been any multi-headed martyr’s in history?
    I guess that would make the bumbling Bush boys marionettes. Or am I getting my drama wrong here?

  2. Killian

    THANK YOU, again, for articulating so passionately what has been careening through my brain–and adding some much needed clarity. I heard about the “right to die” thing Bush signed in Texas on NPR as I was driving home and almost had to pull off the road. I am still musing about the relationship of gender to this mess: power is definitely a factor here, and it seems that the women speaking in this situation (Mom Shiavo and others) exert their power through Pathos, while the men in suits are shedding no tears, (surprise there!) working the Logos, such as it is. So this case strikes a particularly tiresome
    alignment of men with science, women with nature—(Harvard’s Summers is problably smiling, the bastard). still working on this. . .
    Anyway, I HEART science, too, but not to the extent that it can keep me alive when “I” have all but disappeared. Pull the plug, please. And Jaegermeister, if you must, but lots of good Shiraz, too!!!

  3. Martha

    I too have pondered her husband’s motivation in sticking this out for so long and have come to the conclusion his motives must be pure. If he cares so little for his wife, as the parents assert, the easy way out would have been to give up long ago and let her parents have control. But, while moving on in other parts of his life, he continues to fight for what he believes his wife’s intentions were – not to have her life prolonged with no hope for recovery. I am sickened by the political pandering going on around this issue (ptuewy on you, you skank DeLay!) and I hope everyone will learn from this unfortunate woman’s plight to get your wishes in writing!

  4. Nova's Ova (over)

    Gotta chime in here cause lately, b/w this bumbling mess in Fla. (the youth in Asia) and the laughable steroid hearings, our federal gov’t looks like all assholes and elbows; it’s no wonder people are starting to take more daily pride in their weekly vote for an American Idol than their vote for a rep in D.C.
    Way too many Morons, or as Bugs Bunny might say, ‘What a bunch of maroons!’.
    Right on about that picture too. It’s overuse is quite the crock o’schlock.

  5. Deb

    Stephanie- To answer your question, the hospice and taxpayers are footing the bill. Medicaid has been picking up the tab for Schiavo’s medications for two years, while the hospice provides care for free. I read that the average cost of yearly care at that hospice is about $80,000.
    The $700,000 that Michael Schiavo received as part of a medical malpractice lawsuit in his wife’s case has dwindled to about $50,000. The rest went to pay for his wife’s care and legal fees. So those that say he’s only in this for the money (lo these FIFTEEN years) are uninformed. Either he’s fighting to give his wife the dignity she asked for, or he’s got one hell of a need to have the last word.

  6. JodyK

    You have to remember one thing: Life is for the living. While there are ‘civil rights’ slowly being attached to the dying, most things; headstones, searching for MIA’s twenty years later, keeping vegetative people alive, etc., are all done because someone alive still gains some personal comfort by dealing with it. I suppose it all sounds well and good to say what you desire to be done if you end up in such and such condition, but what really happens will be determined by the living who are dealing with your situation for themselves.
    In 1993 my mother committed suicide, but wasn’t effective enough to finish the job. This put two difficult factors into the situation; She lived long enough to express ‘Golden Gate remorse’ for the record to medical personnel and, she stayed around long enough to require termination by me. By the way, if you are the family member responsible for ending life, they don’t let anyone else in the room. At that point, living wills, politics, expressed preferences, the 40 other family members gathered outside, et al, go right out the window and you only have to trust the opinion of the doctors that there’s nothing else left to do. It is truly very disturbing. If I had been convinced that there was one tiny thing left, I wouldn’t have done it, and it could have gone on for much longer than it had already.
    If Terri Schiavo’s parents can’t deal with that and are willing to shoulder the burden of their daughter’s condition, you simply let them do it. Terri doesn’t give a fuck, not anymore anyway. Her parents are so disturbed by this that they have brought the entire world into their situation, but they are the living, and they give a damn (or psychologically they can’t get a grip and I don’t really blame them).
    A footnote: My mother said many times that she wanted to be cremated and spread over the mountains of western NC but my grandmother simply said “You’re not going to burn Sherri”. What would you do?
    Life is for the living, and if they have to have mechanisms to cope, you realize that the dead don’t care. Mom is buried in a marked grave in her hometown in central Kentucky. Why would I ride my grandmother’s ass over it? Mr. Schiavo should walk away, stop paying lawyers and go raise his kids.

  7. Lisa

    Yeah, I’m with you on this one. Robert McChesney has suggested that media will do anything to avoid covering any issue that actually draws attention to corporate interests and misdeeds. Hence the media frenzies around crime, same sex marriage, Michael (and Janet) Jackson, and poor Terry Schiavo. So while the media turns up the heat on these issues … what’s happening in corporate America? What’s happening in Afghanistan? Maybe this is just an obvious point, but it changed the way I watched the news.
    He also has some good ideas on the way the emphasis on neutrality actually skews the debate. For instance, there was an article in Salon yesterday talking about how many of the major networks have done polls which show the majority of Americans support pulling the feeding tube — which they have pretty much stopped mentioning once the Republican war machine got going on the Schivo case. The author (I’ve forgotten who) was suggesting that not reporting on the polls was politically motivated — this could well be true, but it could also be that journalists have convinced themselves that they have to give both sides equal weight, even if the sides themselves aren’t equally weighted. And to get the ratings up what better than to present it as a frenzied societal debate, and in so doing, create one?

  8. Just Andrew

    well said Ian.
    My only comment is perhaps an answer to an above comment. Last month my grandmother (at age 97) stopped eating and drinking – after a couple of days in the hospital the docs explained some options. She could stay and have a feeding tube or go home with hospice. Hospice explained that they would not approve a feeding tube as hospice is for end of life care, but also had a tremendous booklet on end of life care. After reading it, we all agreed to bring my grandmother home, where she lived for almost a week.
    Hospice was amazing and a huge help to me, my mother and expecially my grandfather in dealing with this. We made a hard decision, but we all felt it was the right one.
    So my guess is that if the parents took their daughter home, hospice would not come as long as she had the feeding tube.

  9. KJF

    i was wondering when you were going to deal with this issue. i agree with you completely that the media is out of control on this one. why do they let statements like “terri is thirsty” and “terri is hungry” hang out there. and when are they going to acknowledge that removal of a feeding tube happens every day throughout the world. and when are they going to have neurologists – not bill frist – provide the medical opinions. i have been sickened by this whole episode because it is just the beginning of the attempted coup of our country by christians.
    and just a question…if these christians believe that they go to heaven when they die why would they think death is so awful??? just wondering on that one.

  10. Trayjen

    Where does the soul exist? Is it in the heart? I hope not as it would be strange to receive a new soul during that heart transplant. Is it in the entire body? Pity those veterans returning from Iraq with large portions of their soul missing. Is it in the brain? I think it must be. I have long assumed that my soul is in fact my conscious. While it is true that I have misplaced my soul after a few to many jack ‘n cokes (or jagers) it generally finds its way back to my body early the next day. Clearly the location of the soul is key to the arguement because medical advancements have been moving us closer and closer to needing only our brains to survive. How far are we willing to go? Remove the legs, do we pull the plug? Remove the arms, do we pull the plug? Remove the torso, do we pull the plug??? Remove the skull, pull the plug? As far fetched as a brain in water sounds my question remains, if the conscious person exists do we “pull the plug”? In fact, I think despite the arguments to the contrary, this is not an issue about consciousness, it is an issue of the right to chose life or death and to whom our society is willing to entrust with these personal decisions. I have a strong trusting mature relationship with my wife. I do not need to place in writing every single communication affecting our lives, it is simply what it is, a UNION of two people. The courts in this country, and in England from which our common law springs, have long recognized the special communication bond between husband and wife. The rights and priviledges of these communications are codified in the Federal Rules of Evidence as they are in every State ROE in the country.
    Once a male and a female choose to become married, in whatever form they like, it is time for the parents to butt out of their affairs. Despite what a parent may think of their “little girl” or “little boy” they have no idea what the truth is regarding the choices, opinions, or personal life of their children behind the maritial bedroom door. Allowing the parents in this case, or any other case, to end run the wishes of the spouse is opening up a can of worms that is better left buried and rotting. Suppose the fifth cousin twice removed down in Alabama wanted to take care of her in the old trailer park? “Hell, son, we gots lotsa room in the back.” Okay, too far out there? What about a niece or nephew in college who is running with the Hare Krishnas? The fact of the matter is that despite the rumors and innuendo flying around, Mr. Sciavo has shown remarkable loyalty and love to his wife and in any other circumstance the same people who are claimoring for his head would be singing his praises. This is not a case for public hearing or political debate, it is quiet frankly a personal family matter and the entire US, myself included, should be ashamed of ourselves for not turning of the TV, turning the page of the newspaper and refusing to watch or partake in this morbid sick fiasco.

  11. Rich Roland

    Thanks, Ian, for putting my exact thoughts into words. My partner and I are signing our Living Wills this week because we don’t want to even come CLOSE to a situation like the one we’re watching now. I suppose that’s the most important thing we can learn from this latest media circus: MAKE OUT A CLEARLY ARTICULATED LIVING WILL so that when or if the time comes and you can’t speak, eat, think, poop, pee, move for yourself or even be yourself, your wishes will have been made abundantly clear.

  12. A reader

    JodiK, I know you weren’t looking for sympathy, but my heart goes out to you. I’ve dealt with a near-suicidal family member, and all I did is wonder what I could have done differently to make them see the hope in living…this person ended up surviving and is doing ok for now, but it’s something many people don’t understand. You seem very strong, and very smart.

  13. kent

    FYI if you’ve signed a living will: They won’t mean that much if anyone has a problem with your choices. What you really want is a Durable Power Of Attorney, which any lawyer can draw up — you can probably find a template on the web and draw it up yourself. This gives the person to whom you assign the DPOA the legal power to make decisions in your stead should you become incapacitated.
    A DPOA can spell out which contexts in which the designated person can make decisions for you; you can grant a DPOA that only pertains to decisions about termination of life support.

  14. kent

    Terri Schiavo is long since gone, and there’s no proof that has withstood legal challenge that she’s anything other than gorped. Not to put too fine a point on it.
    That being the case, her condition causes suffering — of Michael Schiavo, the Schindlers, and ultimately, all Americans, who have to endure the corrupt, mendacious asshats currently running things. Ultimately though, I think that if Michael Schiavo had any sense he’d just divorce Terri and turn her over to her parents. Whoever it was he was married to is long gone, and if the Schindlers want to spend the rest of Terri’s life holding onto the unfounded hope that she can snap out of profound brain damage, let ’em.
    The Schindler have their own motivations for perpetuating this never-ending clusterfuck. I assume they’re sincere. Who is despicable is anyone who has given them false hope, and anyone who has sought to gain politically from their tragedy. There should be a special ring of hell for people who seek profit in other people’s suffering.

  15. Lawrence

    I don’t begrudge the husband for moving on with his life — any of us might do the same in that situation — but the fact of the matter is that he moved on long ago. He abnegated his right to speak for Terri when he entered a common law relationship with another woman, with whom he’s fathered two children. Terri’s parents and siblings are the only family she has left and I think it’s only right that they should be allowed to make the decisions on her care.
    I also think it’s very poor form to call her parents “kee-razy” simply because they want to continue to care for her. After all, if she’s not feeling any pain, as the right-to-die advocates contend in regard to her being denied food and water, where’s the harm in letting her live a little longer, even if you believe she will never get any better?
    We can all say what we’d want if we were in a similar condition, but we don’t have a right to make that decision for Terri. Here it comes down to whether one thinks the husband or the parents should have that right. Personally, I’m much more comfortable with the parents making the decision, either way, than a husband who has started another family and who has possible pecuniary motives as well.
    Does anyone else find it odd that the husband never said anything about Terri’s alleged orally-stated living will until after the $1 million medmal settlement was paid (300k to him for loss of consortium and $700k for Terri’s care and rehabilitation, the latter of which she was never given)?
    I also think Ian’s demonstrably wrong when he says Terri “does not see” or show “any sign of self-awareness.” Forget the picture and look at the video clips where she smiles faintly when her mom kisses her and when she follows a balloon with her eyes as it’s passed over her. Yeah, I don’t know if that would be enough for me to want to continue on, but like I said before that’s not our decision to make for Terri Schiavo. Let her parents, the ones who love her the most, decide.
    Final point: It’s interesting that Ian finds Congress’ role in this matter — which, by the way, was at the behest of Terri’s own family — so unforgivably intrusive. Does he think that Roe v. Wade was a usurpation of state’s rights? This is a life and liberty matter and is clearly within Congress’ Constitutional domain. (See Article III of the Constitution and the 14th Amendment thereof.)

  16. Ian

    I disagree with most of what Lawrence states (and if our household wasn’t so nutty right now I’d go into it), but he’s right that calling the Schiavo parents “bona-fide kee-razy” is totally asinine. I removed that from the blog.

  17. Alan

    I completely agree with Lawrence. The husbands motives are definitely questionable. As a parent I could never find it in my heart to say let my child die.
    Ian, for someone who is so liberal, you find it very easy to put labels on people. Turning the whole Terri Sciavo thing into anti-Republican rant is pretty weak. Even if you think the parents are wrong, there is no question that they are doing what they do out of a love for their daughter. Do you not think that Gov. Bush or his brother may relate to those same feelings as parents themselves?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.