If Congress and other lawmakers could move as fast to save Social Security and fix other problems as they are moving to prevent the removal of the feeding tube to Terri Schiavo of Florida then this nation would be in great shape. This is one of those issues I don't care a lot about but am fascinated by it because of the machinations and human drama.
In capsule, here are the facts: Schiavo, 41, suffered severe brain damage 15 years ago when her heart stopped temporarily. Since that time she has been kept alive using a feeding tube even though her doctors say she is in a persistent vegetative state. Her husband, Michael, said that his wife told him she never wanted to be kept alive in this state and he is battling to have her feeding tube removed so she can die.
Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, say they believe this was not her choice and they hold out hope that someday she will improve. So far they have waged a successful battle and now lawmakers have waded in to try to halt the tube from being removed.
I have not obviously spoken to any of the parties involved and that frees me up to speculate.
Her husband could be so insistent for one of two reasons. He deeply loved his wife and cannot stand to see her suffer and knows deep down she would not want to keep surviving in this state of inactivity. The second option is that this issue has stopped his own life, consuming all his attention and he just wants closure. He can't get on with his life until this is settled.
As far as the parents go, they cannot bring themselves to believe that their daughter won't recover and they long to see her laughing and talking and moving about as she did when she was growing up with them. There may also be some of that "how dare he make a decision about our daughter. We are the ones to make that decision."
The reason I say this is human drama at its best is because there are no evil characters. It's a little late for this situation but writers keep reminding us that if she had a living will it would all be clear. This document made out when she was vibrant and clear thinking would say if the worst happens and I am in a hospital bed in a comatose state I do or do not want to be removed from all artificial means of being kept alive. It is such a simple process but most of us don't do it because we are eternal optimists and never believe we will be in this situation. This drama, sans living will, breaks down to whose life is it anyway, as the Broadway play once asked. In that play it was the battle between the doctors who wanted to keep the main character alive and the patient who wanted to be allowed to die.
There was one of those 1940s black and white movies in which the husband is believed lost in the jungle and shows up just as his wife, who has been granted a divorce, is about to remarry. She has the husband she loved and longed for and the new guy she has fallen in love with. It was in the same genre as this latest emotional tug-of-war.
Unique situations call for unique situations. Here is my solution. The court finds there are irreconcilable differences between Terri Schiavo and Michael Schiavo and grants him a divorce. The court could aIso rule that as far as Michael is concerned she is dead. They then rule that as far as the parents are concerned, she is still alive and because of her inability to make a decision for herself they name the parents as her guardians. Now her husband is free to remarry and can get on with his life. He can even have a little funeral service. The parents are free to continue visiting their daughter and hoping she will come to and jump up and start hugging them.
The living will is a good idea and I think just as some couples have prenuptial agreements, then during the marriage process the couple should sign living wills. That way people's wishes are carried out. I suspect during this whole controversy few people have actually made out these wills and this is stupid. Whose life is it anyway? It is yours and make the decision about this issue and make one about how you want to go after you are gone. Make everything about your life known and take the burden off loved ones.
Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor for the News Daily and Daily Herald and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257.