The frightening case of Terri Schiavo

Just when we reach a point where we think our elected officials can’t get any slimier, along comes the sad case of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who’s been trapped in a hopeless and persistent vegetative state for the past 15 years.

Here we have the Republicans—and some lily-livered Democrats—shamelessly pandering to the evangelical right by siding with Schiavo’s parents, who apparently want their daughter to linger indefinitely in a suspended state of life where she cannot care for herself, communicate, think or feel. About all she can do is breath and involuntarily blink her eyes. But she has become the poster child for the right-to-lifers, for whom it matters not if her husband says his wife would have never wanted to exist this way.

It is absolutely frightening that Republican leaders convened rare Sunday sessions of both the House and Senate and that Bush cut short his Texas vacation to sign emergency legislation that allowed Schiavo’s parents to haul the case before the 20th judge to hear it in hopes that this one would rule their way—he didn’t. So much for checks and balances and the separation of powers in our federal government.

One sane voice in this sordid affair is Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., who labeled GOP leaders as “particularly hypocritical” for extolling the sanctity of marriage while denying a husband’s right to speak for his helpless wife.

Who gets to define acceptable quality of life for an individual? Apparently it’s the U.S. government. And here we thought conservatives stood for getting government out of people’s private affairs.

Frankly, the government’s actions in this case scare the hell out of us. Not only do we side with Schiavo’s husband, we would take it a step further and say the truly civilized solution would be physician-assisted suicide instead of starvation and dehydration. But as a supposedly enlightened society, we haven’t gotten there yet.