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Thursday, December 18, 2014
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Published: Monday, 5/17/2004

The governor and the victim

The ugliness of injecting politics into a comatose woman's body continues in Florida now that a county judge has ruled unconstitutional a state law that let Gov. Jeb Bush prolong 40-year-old Terri Schindler Schiavo's dying.

The governor of drawn-out death is, of course, appealing. Unless the judge lifts the stay of his ruling the appeal imposed - and he might - Mr. Schiavo can't immediately stop his wife's mindless existence.

Terri Schiavo has been in a persistent vegetative state for 14 years thanks to brain atrophy caused by a chemical imbalance that caused her heart to stop too long for her brain to keep working.

She can do nothing for herself. She cannot communicate. She has been kept alive only by tubes that pump nutrients and water into her and carry her wastes out.

Her sorry plight of living with one foot in the land of the living and the other in the land of the dead, has been aggravated by parents who don't want to believe their child's condition is hopeless, and a husband who wants to get on with his life. He has maintained she would not want to live under these circumstances, and given her condition, beyond repair and rational hope, he's no doubt right.

Still, they call him a murderer.

He should be able to move on. But Robert and Mary Schindler, Terri's parents, who no longer have legal control over their daughter's life or death, appealed for political respite. A state leader of the Grand Old Party, once committed to fiscal restraint and personal privacy, set aside its tenets for political gain.

As full of the most mawkish right-to-life cant as his brother, Jeb Bush persuaded a compliant Florida legislature to enact a law that empowered him to order the artificial feeding and hydration of Mrs. Schiavo six days after her husband had stopped artificially extending her life.

It isn't clear that the governor is picking up the tab for dragging out this poor woman's death, an effort he suggests is a paean to life.

As we've noted before, this case, as few others do, illustrates everyone's needs to talk to loved ones about how one wants and doesn't want to live or die. The governor's office has no business interfering with whatever choice is made, and a deathbed or funeral is no place to dishonor the dead with tension and hostility.



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