Copyright © 2005 Henrietta W. Hay
Politics and Life
April 1, 2005
The efforts of Governor Owens and the Colorado Legislature to micromanage the state University are small potatoes compared to the apparent assumption of President Bush and Congress that they are qualified to practice medicine without a license. And the Schiavo story is getting more headlines and TV than the Iraq War.
At 90, I am a lot closer to the problem than most, and I do have some pretty strong opinions. Most people in my age range, I know that death is a reality facing us square on. I don't know when or how, but it is there. Religious people know it and non-religious people know it. And most of us are saying, "OK, that's part of the cycle of life. But let my death be as easy as possible." As a personal note, I think Dr. Kevorkian is a humanitarian and the state of Oregon is to be congratulated. The thought of a woman being allowed to lie for 15 years in a persistent vegetative state makes me very sad and angry.
The Schiavo story is a tragic one, made far worse by the interference of politics. For fifteen years, Terri has been lying in bed, able to breathe and move her facial muscles, but with the rest of her brain destroyed. And what should be a purely personal situation and a serious moral discourse was turned into a political circus.
In early March Congress and the Administration saw a chance to turn a family tragedy into political capital. When a respectable physician, who is also President of the U. S. Senate feels capable of watching 30 minutes of video film, and making the diagnosis that the feeding tube should be left in, and a majority of the Congress agrees, our political system has gone lower than even the most ardent liberal ever thought it could.
The far Right wing of the Republican Party took up the cause, following Mr. Bush's "When in doubt, choose Life." So "Terri's Law" was passed in Congress with the help of Democrats who didn't have the backbone to fight it, and signed immediately by the President. It was struck down by a Federal Judge the next day.
Jim Spencer, wrote in the Denver Post, "This is a visceral family feud in which Congress, pushed by groups like Focus on the Family, has decided to play God. Only the almighty concept here is government-ordered morality."
A far deeper issue than party politics is growing among people of all political affiliations. The questions of life or death, the very basic question of "What is life?" must be considered by all of us. Medical science has grown faster than our ethical ability to handle it.
Dr. Philip Wogaman, Interim President of Iliff School of Theology, wrote, "Somebody in that condition is alreadydead from a moral and theological standpoint. If you treat physical life as being an absolute here, what you have done is say the purely physical is the meaning of our humanity."
Hopefully this whole situaton will remind people to be sure to make their wishes known for the end of life. My attorney, says that the Colorado Medical Power of Attorney is the most powerful document for this purpose. It goes beyond the living will and covers many more situations.
Don't wait until you are "old." Terri was only 26. Let's all learn something from this tragic situation.