If Terri Schiavo were a Death Row Inmate, Would We Still Care?

The terrible, private, family affair that has become the Terri Schiavo “right-to-life” debate is near its end. But its repercussions are just beginning.

Congress, still feeling woozy from the 2004 elections and in the mood to spend some hard-bought political capital, turned a family matter that had been litigated for a decade into a national debate. It seems that Christian conservative groups were a little perturbed that Congress wasn’t moving fast enough to implement the kinds of reforms they had paid – err, voted – for, and the case of a brain-damaged woman in Florida represented payback time.

Well, as conservative groups and Congress have learned, payback is a bitch.

Despite unprecedented Legislative and Executive Branch intervention, the courts sided with existing law, as they have all along the way in this case. Despite your feelings about the moral or ethical issues, the courts correctly ruled that laws must be for all people, not one person. Congress and the President can’t make special exceptions or write “private” bills – to do so would create a legal precedent that would keep who knows how many lawyers busy for years, and I’m sure we all agree that lawyers in America today already have enough to do.

Now the public is questioning the government’s strategy. Republicans never seriously debated whether their decision to intervene would be seen as intrusion into a family matter or a violation of the separation of powers — when informed of the latter possibility by House Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) simply told Sensenbrenner to “be creative.”

That creativity has concerned voters both red and blue. According to several new polls, a majority of Americans (and a majority of those who call themselves evangelical Christians) believe Congress was wrong to get involved.

Was DeLay quick to act because he faced mounting pressure from Christian conservative groups, or because the Schiavo case could divert attention from DeLay’s own ethics problems? And what would these same Christian groups do if Terri Schiavo were a Death Row inmate? Would she still have a right to life? Would we still be ethically and morally bound to provide her with nourishment, to treat her like a fellow human being?

In the end, the Schiavo case is sad, disturbing and far as we can tell, over. Let it go. Let her go. Save the bigger moral fight for tomorrow if you wish.

But most people won’t – they will move on. Perhaps it’s time we all did.

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One Response to If Terri Schiavo were a Death Row Inmate, Would We Still Care?

  1. C Peterson says:

    I understand the idea of “peaceful passing”, but what I don’t understand is the fine line that people ignore when making such decisions. The majority rule is that pulling a feeding tube and literarly starving a body to death is ok, since the person is in a vegative state. However, a criminal, who has taken a life of another, is granted a swift and instant death via lethal injection-and that is also viewed as ok. BUT if one was to administer a lethal injection in the name of a “peaceful passing” to “end misery”, we all know that would be called murder. Lock a terminally ill dog in a cage for 2 weeks, and see how popular you become. I understand releasing Terri Schiavo, but did it have to be in such a brutal way? What little awareness she had left could not possibly comprehend what was happening to her, it must have been scary. My opinion, yes, but hey that’s why we live in the USA. I somehow suspect people would somehow view the lethal injection more as straight out murder, despite being more peaceful. Crazy world when a hardened criminal is granted a more serene death than someone who just had the bad luck to have their body shut down long enough to render the body near useless.

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