Friday, February 18, 2005

812 If you have a disability

There are a lot of frail people in Florida. When we visited our relatives there last week we saw people in a life and death struggle to get from the parking lot to the cafeteria. Tubes, oxygen, walkers, wheelchairs. Their lives are very different from mine and they can't do many of the things they used to, nor can they contribute economically to society. But I'm not going to knock them down and bar the door of the restaurant (I'll leave that to Florida drivers).

That's what is happening to Terri Schiavo, a young woman who has a severe disability. The contribution she is making to our society is vast, however. Much greater than mine. She is teaching us about compassion, caring, humanity, empathy, and all their antonyms--judicial lust for power, a greedy lawyer writing a book, an unfaithful and possibly abusive husband. Terri may be disabled, but she is definitely not dying, the usual reason for removing hydration and nutrition.

"Despite what Michael Schiavo, some media outlets and various "right-to-die" groups in Florida and around the country report, Terri Schiavo is not dying; she does not have a terminal illness; she is not comatose; she is not, even by Florida state statute, in a persistent vegetative state. She is cognitively and physically disabled — period. Any reasonable person who views the video clips on the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation's website would recognize the truth of her condition. Terri's disability requires that she be given fluids and nutrition through a gastronomy tube – at meal times – much the equivalent of giving a baby formula through a bottle, and the removal of which would irrefutably cause her death by starvation and dehydration." The Washington Dispatch

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