Friday, March 18, 2005

On the sanctity of life

Okay, so the controversy surrounding Terry Schiavo has been going on for quite some time now (arguably, for the 15 years that she's been in a persistent vegitative state). In theory, it could be close to an end; courts have ordered that the feeding tube be removed as of 1:00 p.m. today.

However, Congress, doing what Congress does best, seems to be doing its level best to keep her body alive as long as is humanly possible by way of completely stripping her of any remaining dignity. Pandagon tells us how Congress objects to the removal of her feeding tube - because she's supposed to testify before them regarding the issue later this month.

I'm not even kidding. If only I were. But no, Congress has asked that the body formerly occupied by Terri Schiavo be brought before them for - for what? For nothing more than a delaying tactic, truth be told, but according to an attorney for her parents, they're "prayerfully excited about their daughter going before the United States Congress for the whole world to see how alive she is."

I have nothing but sympathy for Terri Schiavo's parents. I don't know what it's like, having to go through what they've gone through; I can only imagine the grief and desperation. What mother wouldn't want to believe that her daughter is still there, able to speak and smile and react to her touch and her voice? To see someone go so quickly from a vibrant, active person to an unresponsive body must be heartbreaking; the idea of losing even that last little bit must be unthinkable.

But Terri's just not there anymore. Doctors have testified that in addition to the initial damage caused by the chemical imbalance and subsequent heart attack, her brain has deteriorated to the point that it's not there anymore; her cerebral cortex is gone, replaced by nothing but spinal fluid, and any movements or sounds that she makes are just involuntary reflexes, the result of nothing but brain stem activity. Short of divine intervention, she's never going to get better.

The argument that Terri should be allowed to die in order to relieve her suffering is fallacious; the parts of her brain that would allow her to feel pain are, by doctor's accounts, long gone. But there's something to be said for preserving her dignity, even if she's no longer there to enjoy it. According to her husband, Terri made perfectly clear her desire not to be kept alive by extraordinary measures; it's not an uncommon request. And it's a request that should be honored for every person who makes it. The most important decision that we can ever make is simply to live or not to; to have that decision taken away from us is unspeakably cruel.

From Terri's parents, it's understandable; they don't want to lose their daughter and don't realize that they already have. For Congress to do so is unthinkable and disgusting. They've taken a family's suffering and a woman's life and used them to push their own agenda that perverts the sanctity of life by preserving it beyond any reasonable extent. Human life is precious not because of a beating heart or brain waves but because of the person inside; the human soul can't possibly be reduced to somethign so base and crude as an act of Congress.

Human life is absolutely sacred. It's not something that can be legislated or argued or thrown around or decided in the news. Human life should start and end with nothing more than love and dignity.

Update: The presiding judge in the case has ruled that her feeding tube must be removed, despite the Congressional subpoena. I pray that Terri Schiavo is finally allowed to rest in peace.

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