Thinking about Terry Schiavo

The life-or-death legal drama over Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged Florida woman, arose out of a family dispute about her best interests and has gripped the nation in a moral quandary over removing her feeding tube. The debate has bounced from courts to family dinner tables to Congress and the White House. The Monitor has received an unusually high volume of responses from readers. Here are a few of them.

The only good thing out of this is: My wife and I have filled out living wills.

Michael G. Nikolakis, Spanish Fort, Ala.

The courts' decisions repeatedly affirmed the husband's responsibility for speaking on Terri's behalf. It was irrelevant which side of the issue he was on. If the positions were reversed, and it was the parents who wanted to remove the tube, the courts would still have ruled in favor of the husband. We're a nation governed by law, and the system did what it was supposed to do.

Norman Isaacson, New Brighton, Minn.

As long as she is breathing on her own she should be given her feeding tube. No living being should be allowed to die the way she is. It's murder. I believe in the death penalty and the right to die, but this is insane. She has family willing to care for her. Let her husband relinquish his rights.

J. Marlowe, North Brunwick, N.J.

All of my extended family agree that we would not want to be kept alive for years through extraordinary means. It seems to us that forcing so-called life on a dead brain or body amounts to torture.

Sandi Spires, Sunnyvale, Calif.

Terri Schiavo has the right to die, and her husband is entitled to make this decision. The upsetting thing is the way she's dying. Pulling the feeding tube is one thing, but allowing her to starve to death or die from lack of water exceeds cruel and unusual punishment. If there were ever a case for euthanasia, this is it.

Lee Robinson, Zirconia, N.C.

As a disabled person and activist for the disabled, I think progressives should "get" the Schiavo case - it's not "life" versus "choice" but civil rights for disabled people. Her only crime was being disabled. Schiavo is not a "vegetable" nor "in-valid," but a person with a disability using a feeding tube. She is not terminally ill. Research shows that nondisabled people and medical professionals devalue the quality of life of disabled people.

Zan Thornton, Decatur, Ga.

As a disabled person with serious spinal cord injuries, I've faced this question. What is often missed in this debate is that the question of "quality of life" is irrelevant. Terri Schiavo is dead, even if her body is being kept alive. Unlike the living, she doesn't have to face the prospect of dying slowly and painfully because of a lack of healthcare funding. Cutbacks and policies callously orchestrated by the very people insisting that her body be kept [alive], in effect, deprive living people - fully capable of thinking and feeling - from getting any relief. This double standard is frightening to those of us caught in this irrational system.

Sandy Lambrecht, Menomonie, Wis.

The dangerous, ugly side of this whole issue is that it's not being treated as a borderline case, or as the unfortunate exception that it is. Instead, religious conservatives are trying to use it as an example of how any kind of life is life, no matter how partial or tenuous. They know that if they can impose force on the living to keep alive the barely living, they can likewise impose force on the living to bring into existence unwanted potential lives.

Michael J. Hurd, Chevy Chase, Md.

Personally, I'm glad Medicaid is paying for Terri's care. It seems to me Medicaid was designed for this purpose. Though her medical situation is grim, I want her to live until she slips away from natural causes. If Medicaid wants to pay for her care for the next 20 years, so be it. Maybe this will make government and Congress more sympathetic to the plight of the disabled.

James Patterson, Washington, D.C.

Reduce the profit to those who are paid keepers and this would be much less of a problem.

Andrew Hessman, Bryn Mawr, Pa.

Where is outrage about the misery of the poor and sick dying in Africa? Who is stepping up to to ensure they are fed and receive health services?

Barbara A. Hood, Vancouver, British Columbia

The worst of the worst is that those who murder - serial killers - sit for years on death row at the taxpayers' expense, yet the parents of this girl have to fight the system to keep their daughter alive.

Larry Reynolds, Wallingford, Ky.

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