In September 1977 my younger brother, John, was struck by a car in front of my home. He was two years old and the force of the impact knocked him about twenty feet away. For the next week he languished in the hospital. Almost immediately it was evident that there was no brain activity and he required a ventilator to breathe. As the days passed there was further evidence that his body was beginning to deteriorate. Sadly, by the end of that very tragic week it was clear to the doctors and my parents that there was absolutely no chance for my brother’s recovery and they subsequently consented to the deactivation of the ventilator.
While not an exact correlation to the Terri Schiavo case, it is close enough to bring forth some very powerful feelings for me. One difference of course is that while my brother was a minor, Schiavo is an adult and a married woman. In addition, she has been in a vegetative state for nearly 14 years as opposed to a week and is showing brain activity sufficient to allow her to breathe on her own. Beyond that, there has been very little evidence to suggest that her physical life is anything more now than a mechanical process. Any sign of sensory response seems to be purely autonomic. The most tragic part of this story, however, is the dispute between her husband who wants to disconnect her feeding tube and her parents who want to continue sustaining her.
The basic problem is that the actions of both the Florida legislature and Governor Bush have inappropriately injected government into a matter that is none of its business. Governor Bush has merely added insult to injury by signing a law that is clearly tied to this specific case, a case in which a court has already ruled that Mr. Schiavo could detach his wife’s feeding tube, thereby allowing her to die, as it is his contention that such an action is in accordance with her wishes.
While government should most certainly intervene in a case of domestic or child abuse, this does not qualify as such. The state legislature does not have the authority to reopen final court decisions, which is precisely what it has done. Ultimately this matter must be decided between the family and unfortunately, the courts, not a politically motivated governor and the legislature.
Scott Wacholtz is a senior majoring in Political Science. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.