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ISSUE 117 VOL 6 PUBLISHED 10/31/2003

Patient used for political grandstanding

By Krista Haagenstad
Staff Writer

Friday, October 31, 2003

As Howard Zinn asked last week, how many more Bushes are we going to have to deal with? It’s time to shake our heads at the action of yet another Bush; this time it’s Jeb, little brother of George W. He’s using his power as governor of Florida and a law recently enacted by his own Republican-led legislature to keep a woman on life support despite the objections of her husband.

The woman, Terri Schiavo, has been in a persistent vegetative state since 1990. There is next to no hope that she will ever regain consciousness. It is her husband’s wish that her feeding tube be removed and she be allowed to die. He says this was her own wish that she stated but never put into her will. Her parents are fighting this because they are hoping that medical technology will someday treat her. Husband Michael Schiavo finally won a court order to allow his wife to die. However, the Florida legislature immediately passed a thinly-veiled bill designed to reinstate her life support. The law gave the governor the power to force doctors to reinsert the feeding tube. Bush quickly invoked the law and the woman was forced back on life support.

Choosing to let a family member die is an emotionally wrenching issue, and probably the hardest decision that anyone would ever have to make. I doubt that hiring a lawyer and suing in-laws is the best solution to this problem. The only way to come to a decision like this is to talk it out as a family. Of course it’s going to be difficult to reach a consensus, but it’s better that the family reach the consensus on their own rather than forcing the decision into the hands of a judge. No one is going to be satisfied if the matter gets taken outside the family.

However, when the situation gets taken to court, that doesn’t mean that the governor or the legislature have the right to step in. Adding another layer of bureaucracy is not going to help, even if the issue is in their power, which it is not. Jeb Bush is blatantly sidestepping the courts and abusing his power as governor. It is not his job to moralize the citizens of Florida. If he disagrees with the practice of passive euthanasia, his appropriate recourse should be to prevent it from happening in the future.

Would a statewide law against passive euthanasia pass if it were introduced in the normal (read: ethical) way, and citizens actually had time to react to it? It’s hard to say. Nevertheless, it is hardly legal to create laws so narrowly tailored to one person – especially ones that take effect retroactively.

Additionally, Bush’s actions hardly seem motivated by sympathy for this woman. Her feeding tube was reinserted a week after being removed. It is likely that she was already beginning to suffer organ failure at this point. Reintroducing food and water into her system was not a humanitarian act. It was a political one intended to make a dramatic point.

Unfortunately for Bush, it exposes him as a hypocrite. If he finds her life so incredibly valuable that she warrants her own law, why is he using her as a political chess piece? How would he feel if it was his wife lying in a hospital bed for 13 years? If every pro-life activist and conservative politician in the country were standing outside her hospital room positively drooling over the political goldmine? I doubt he would appreciate being manipulated for the sake of a sound bite. If he wants to make a point about the sanctity of human life, the best way to do it is not by trampling over the lives of innocent people.

Contributing Writer Krista Haagenstad is a sophomore from Fairlawn, Ohio. She majors in English and political science.

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