The politics of a life in the balance
Monday's congressional vote to send the Terri Schiavo case to a federal judge taps issues of dignity, legality - and strategy.
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In Monitor interviews in Chicago, Nashville, Tenn., and New York City, those interviewed reflected the range of views evident in polling.Skip to next paragraph
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"It's a very difficult issue, but I'm willing to take the word of the medical community that she has no brain function other than instinctual," says Jonathan Laing, a senior editor at Barron's, in Chicago. "Though I count myself as a conservative, I think that the Republicans are pandering to the religious right on this."
Peter Bergeron, a general contractor working on his PhD in philosophy, also questions Congress's decision to intervene. He says he and his wife had already discussed the issues involved because of the movie "Million Dollar Baby."
"It raises questions like, 'What makes life worth living,'" says Mr. Bergeron, sitting in a Chicago Starbucks working on his dissertation. "In this situation, you have a woman who, as far as we can tell, isn't capable of entering into a relationship. What is the purpose of her life? It also raises questions about the role of technology. Were our lives intended to be lived in this kind of vegetative state? Fifty to 60 years ago, we weren't able to prolong life with technology. Just because we can, should we?"
He adds that he and his wife are now attending to the living-will issue "because of things in our own family history. Within the year we'll have something."
In New York City, Raoul Calleja said he believes in a person's right to die, but in this case, has doubts about the motives of Schiavo's husband: "Is it to end the suffering or was it for something else?"
New Yorker Merve Feurtado said that he supports the court's decision in this case. "I know the court order is what they should go by," he said. Removing the feeding tube is a difficult choice, but, he said,
"if she can't function properly, it might be more comfortable for her."
In Nashville, salesman John Majors says he was in favor of letting Schiavo pass away until he saw pictures of her that made her seem responsive. He is also hesitant about Congress getting involved in medical issues. "I think their [congressional] interests are questionable," he says.
David Reynolds, a commercial airline pilot, also in Nashville, also criticizes the federal government for getting involved. It has "better things to do," he says. As for Schiavo's husband, he adds, "I think he's carrying out her wishes. I think her parents are being selfish."
But Anthony Jones, a 52-year-old postal worker in Nashville, is siding with Schiavo's parents. "As long as there is a shred of hope, give her a chance to live," he said. At first, Mr. Jones did not have an opinion about Congress intervening, but as he spoke, he seemed not to object. "The right to live is so strong," he said.
In Mr. Jones's family, which holds a weekly Sunday-night devotional including his wife and three children, the issue came up this week - and the consensus, he says, was that they were hopeful for the parents and that the tube would be reinserted. "We all feel that she deserves a fighting chance," he says.
• Anne Stein in Evanston, Ill., Amy Green in Nashville, Tenn., and Robert Tuttle in New York contributed to this report.