December 4, 2023

Terri Schiavo, Revisited

Anyone in the habit of recording one’s thoughts risks future embarrassment when those remarks are revisited years later. For a time when I was a young professor, I wrote short essays every morning and posted them on my office door. Some of those efforts I would not write today.

These thoughts were occasioned by my having watched the MSNBC documentary Between Life & Death: Terri Schiavo’s Story last night. The film caused me to reread my own commentary on the Terri Schiavo episode on my Web site. Happily, I found that “What’s It All About, Terri?” fairly describes the Schiavo affair and offers a viewpoint I can continue to support today. The facts presented in Between Life & Death are consistent with what I wrote nearly two decades ago.

If you are not familiar with the Terri Schiavo affair, you should know that this woman, in a persistent vegetative state, became the focus of a long-running contest between her husband, who wanted to remove her feeding tube and let her die, and her parents, who seemingly wanted to keep her alive indefinitely in the irrational hope that she could eventually recover. Schiavo’s brain, however, had essentially turned to mush. A court ultimately allowed the feeding tube to be removed, but the case became a national cause célèbre engaging myriad advocacy groups and self-serving politicians. Congress even passed a law signed by President Bush to address Schiavo’s situation.

Terri suffered cardiac arrest in 1990 and, without ever regaining consciousness, was allowed to die 15 years later.

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