Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Feeding Tube Frenzy: 6 Theses

I haven't said anything about last week's American meltdown into national hysteria over the case of Terri Schiavo because I didn't want to add to the hysteria. (If you live in a sane country, please see the summary of the three ring circus with sad clowns at the end of this post.) Such cases occur daily in every city of the world, albeit amid quiet family grief, in private discussions between doctors and loved ones. That this case was whipped up into the froth of political opportunism and propaganda is hardly worth condemning. What's the point? You either get it or you are unable to get it.

Yet . . . yet it might be worth taking a lingering look behind the hysteria here.
Six Theses:

1. Why for instance, only in America? Americans have complicated these family tragedies to an extraordinary degree because we deploy advanced technologies that are able to keep a dead person physically "alive." The border between life and death, once thought to be absolute, is now technically fuzzy. And this in a country where a large portion of people say they believe in angels and in Satan! America is in a rigid denial of death. That's a recipe for a fiasco such as this case and much worse.

2. Also at question in other places but not in America, ironically, is the social problem of whether it is indeed ethical to spend $3 million dollars to keep a brain-dead person alive for 15 years while thousands and thousands of other people have no access to health care whatsoever. 40% of Americans today don't even have adequate medical insurance. (Do you see Christians chanting in parking lots about that?) Those overwhelming numbers of personal bankruptcies that prompted a new federal law restricting bankruptcy turned out to be due to Americans using their credit cards (at 20% interest!) to pay for doctor and hospital visits.

3. The current regime is taking advantage of every opportunity such as this case to roll back the clock to 1650 when the Northeast was under the tight control of a Puritan theocracy. They are determined to push this agenda regardless of how much hysteria is produced along the way. This case was to be merely a small stepping stone to the far shore, exploited for the the greater goal of fundamentalist theocracy.

4. Try a thought experiment: whenever this Bush gang of theocrats says "X" then try suspecting why they unconsciously (I'm being generous) mean "not X". So when they're quoted as saying this is above all about the sanctity of life ... well remember how little they actually care about the lives destroyed in various imperial invasions, in our own ghetto, etc. In other words, unconsciously they're over-emphasizing an abstract "sanctity" that in concrete practice is utterly ignored. They doth protest too much. Bush: "I'm pro-life." "and ...that's why I support the death sentence."

5. Then what is the unconscious motive beyond this contradiction? The State owns a monopoly over the right of life and death. The State alone gives itself the right to execute prisoners and to kill enemies and to send our soldiers to their possible deaths. Individuals who attempt to take this right for themselves are the very definition of outlaws. Oregon's "Right to Die" movement was legally challenged at the federal level from the top down. In order to keep this sovereign right over death, the State is jealously guarding against the medical profession and families and individual persons who would seek to have any say about death.

6. Do you really want these kinds of people running such a hypocritical regime of denial to own the rights to how you will eventually die? Personally I think that my death should belong to me, and if I'm "half dead-alive" on high technological support, then my death should belong to those who actually cared about my life, not to a gang of mediocre theocrats in denial.

P.S. I also haven't blogged on this last week, because the issue has been brilliantly and thoroughly worried about over at Jill's: Brilliant at Breakfast

P.S.S. Summary of Schiavo hysteria, according to Harper's --
"Terri Schiavo, a brain-dead woman in Florida, was still
alive. The Supreme Court refused to hear a case brought by
Schiavo's parents to force the reinsertion of the woman's
feeding tube. Outside of Schiavo's hospice, protesters
knelt in anguished prayer; many wore red tape across their
mouths with the word "life" written on the tape. Disabled
protesters cast themselves from their wheelchairs onto the
driveway, shouting. Schiavo's parents asked the protesters
to go home. A North Carolina man was arrested for trying
to have both Schiavo's husband and the judge who denied
the request to reinsert Schiavo's feeding tube killed, and
a man who wanted to "rescue" Schiavo was arrested for
attempting to steal a gun from a Florida gun shop. Senator
Bill Frist--a doctor who as a Harvard medical student
adopted pound cats as pets, then killed them to practice
his surgical technique--diagnosed Schiavo from afar,
suggesting that her condition could improve, and it was
discovered that Tom DeLay permitted his brain-dead father
to be taken off life support in 1988, even though his
father lacked a living will. Most of America thought
Congress should shut up about Schiavo."


At 6:08 AM, Blogger Jonathan Dresner said...

As sympathetic as I am to your points, I have to point out that it isn't only in America that these issues exist in this way. Japan only recently made it legal, for example, to remove life support or harvest organs from brain-dead patients, and only with advance consent: there are thousands of Schiavo-like patients in Japan still, and very little support for drastic changes in the law. I strongly suspect that the issue will play out similarly in China once widely available medical technology there catches up with the life-sustaining capacities so many of us enjoy.

At 4:41 PM, Anonymous Mac said...

I've been kinda waiting for someone to sift through the muck and make it clear for me. Your post
helped a great deal.

I wanna note that not all Christians buy into al this bullshit and dead rhetoric. Many of us HATE it
and are appalled on a daily basis by the fear-mongering, hate, greed and overall moral bankruptcy.

Keep up the good work. Love your blog and am including a link from my new renegade site:

Grace and peace,


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