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Life support and choices.

It's been impossible to miss the debate regarding the treatment of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman who after years in a "persistent vegetative state" passed away on March 31.

I admit, I have been of two minds on this issue. I believe life is too important to discard. Yet, I can't help wondering if perhaps her situation devolved into an issue of maintenance rather than life--if such distinctions matter.

My wife and I have not been blessed with a child, but I couldn't imagine the horror of watching a child wither away--or perhaps worse, linger in the blankness of coma. I doubt I could decide to put our cat down if the time came. However, while I love him, he's not human. People deserve respectful, quality treatment.

The Schiavo case raised all sorts of philosophical and moral issues people don't like to discuss. Does removing a feeding tube constitute a killing? Can a man who has started a family with another woman make life and death decisions about his wife?

Don't mistake ethical questions with legal questions. They might overlap, but they are not the same. Law has constraints.

To my mind, the Schiavo case outgrew its space. I don't understand why it became a federal issue requiring the intrusion of Congress. Why should politicians representing outside states have any right to influence what judges in Florida decide?

Shouldn't the politicians' time be spent on patients with greater chances of survival and which they actually can help, such as Medicare and Medicaid? Yet, the way the Medicaid debate has evolved, state issues have seemed to become federal problems. Who knows if my poor neighbors in New York, for instance, will be able to receive adequate healthcare, much less for how long?

Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security reform: these are issues politicians can and should influence. As Americans we have the right to elect other politicians if we don't agree with their choices.

As human beings, however, we all see that such choices carry a heavy cost and burden. Just ask those who knew and loved Terri Schiavo.
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Title Annotation:PERSPECTIVE
Author:Sinclair, Matthew
Publication:Contemporary Long Term Care
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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