What I Learned from Terri Schiavo

The Terri Schiavo saga has come to an end, but it’s still being talked about (and argued about) around water coolers, bars, and family dinner tables everywhere. I think it’s time to stop arguing and reflect on the lessons learned.

This is what I learned from Terri:

I learned that I was wise to have drawn up a living will two years ago, but that I was unwise for not having done so much earlier. Terri was only in her twenties when tragedy struck.

I learned that to face the impending death of a child is probably the hardest thing for a parent to do. Despite the fact that Terri’s condition could hardly be called “living”, her parents refused to accept that she could not connect with them. I do not fault them for that. Reality is not always easy to take.

I learned that Michael Schiavo loved Terri very much, and that he just wanted to honor the wishes that she had expressed to him repeatedly. I would hope that any life partner of mine would do the same, even if my parents were unable to accept the fact that I would not want to live as a vegetable.

I learned that I would not want Tom DeLay or any other elected official to interfere with my medical treatment. My medical decisions are between me, my doctor, and my loved ones. Let Congress find something better to do with my hard-earned tax dollars.

I learned that George W. Bush, as governor of Texas, signed cost-saving legislation giving hospitals the power to disconnect feeding tubes, breathing devices, and other means of life support without the consent of the patient’s family. But, since Terri wasn’t living in Texas, he jumped on the “save Terri” bandwagon to score some additional points with the religious right.

I learned that some Republican officials who have complained in the past about “activist judges” wasted no time in pushing for a little judicial activism to save Terri.

I learned that a majority of the American public, both Democrats and Republicans, reported to pollsters that they approved of removing Terri’s feeding tube, so this really wasn’t a partisan issue at all.

I learned that the mainstream media played down the fact that so many Americans were in favor of letting Terri die, and focused instead on the vocal “pro-life” minority camped outside her hospice.

I learned that this “pro-life” minority were acting on emotion rather than facts or reason. They meant well, but they chose to stand behind the parents who would not face the reality of Terri’s condition, and they refused to acknowledge Terri’s stated wishes. They wanted to bring her water, never thinking that water would make her choke. And, quite ironically, they wanted to force-feed her, even though Terri’s bulimia had contributed to the heart attack that caused her persistent vegetative state.

I learned that I would not want to be videotaped while in a vegetative state (or otherwise incapacitated) and have those videos broadcast to television sets around the world.

Finally, I learned that life is precious, and that any of us might find ourselves in Terri’s shoes at any time, without warning. Therefore, we should make the most of every minute of every day, while we can.

So let’s all get back to living, and let Terri Schiavo finally rest in peace.

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