Feeding Frenzy Over a Feeding Tube

IThe political circus surrounding Terri Schiavo is absolutely unbelievable. The recent actions of the House, Senate, and White House reek of hypocrisy. The facts of the case are simple: husband Michael Schiavo is Terri’s legal guardian, the courts have held that Terri would not want the feeding tube, and he has asked for the feeding tube to removed. Not surprisingly, the courts have backed Michael Schiavo. The Schiavo case is a no-brainer. Literally.

While the Schiavo case is getting saturation coverage, very little attention if any is paid to the case of Sun Hudson, a 6-month-old infant with a fatal congenital condition. His mother wanted him kept alive as long as possible, but the hospital didn’t want to pay for the continuing care. Just last week, the hospital overruled the penniless mother, removed his feeding tube, and he died. The hospital’s action was perfectly legal, under the Texas Futile Care Law, which allows the termination of life if there is no hope of improvement, even if the family objects. The law was signed by George W. Bush when he was governor of Texas. It boosts the profits of the medical-industrial complex, allowing the for-profit health care providers to pull the plug if a biopsy of the patient’s wallet proves negative.

Terri Schiavo’s healthcare bills have been paid from a million-dollar settlement obtained by her husband after medical malpractice put her in a persistent vegetative state. The million dollars has been nearly exhausted by now on medical costs and legal fees. Now Congress – and the Nevada legislature – has passed “tort reform,” making it difficult or impossible for injured patients to collect from doctors, hospitals, or insurance companies.

Congress recently passed a bankruptcy law, which makes it difficult or impossible for people who are swamped with medical bills to get a clean slate by declaring chapter 7 bankruptcy. Medical bills are the number one cause of personal bankruptcy.

As governor of Texas, the allegedly “pro-life” George W. Bush led the nation in executions of prisoners. Because Texas lacks a decent public-defender system, poor defendants often have lawyers who are always overworked, and sometimes incompetent or senile.

The Congress that postures “in favor of life” is the same Congress that votes for war. Recently Congress voted an additional $82 billion for the continued U. S. military occupation of Iraq, with the aim of turning Iraq into a US oil colony. US casualties are over 1,500 dead and 10,000 wounded. Estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths by the respected British medical publication The Lancet run as high as 100,000.

The Schiavo case is threat to anybody who wants to die with dignity. I think of a spunky 85-year-old relative of mine who suffered a serious heart attack. The doctors wanted to take all sorts of extraordinary “heroic” measures to keep her alive, but she didn’t. She finally prevailed and the doctors finally relented, but only after she called her lawyer and threatened to sue them. I’m going to prepare a living will, so that when my time comes, I can die with dignity instead of surviving as a vegetable or a laboratory collection of cut-up parts.

The Washington Post reported on Sunday that “In a memo distributed only to Republican senators, the Schiavo case was characterized as ëa great political issue’ that could pay dividends with Christian conservatives, whose support is essential in midterm elections such as those coming up in 2006.” The Schiavo case is nothing but a political stunt by the anti-abortion lobby and Christian right-wingers: a feeding frenzy about a feeding tube.

JOHN FARLEY lives in Henderson, Nevada. He can be reached at: johnwfarley@yahoo.com

John W. Farley