Favorite

The politics of dying 

I talked to two Arkansas congressmen less than 12 hours after Congress thrust itself into the Terry Schiavo case. She’s the Florida woman, in a vegetative state for 15 years, whose husband wants to end her life by removing her feeding tube. U.S. Rep. Marion Berry, a pharmacist, said Congress had “no business” getting involved in such decisions. U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder, a physician, said “bad facts make bad law” and that Congress had decided the issue without informed debate. But, yes, Berry and Snyder both voted for the legislation. It is a terrible precedent. The Democratic Party’s general silence on the issue troubled me. Was it a product of the “Blue Dog” movement that Berry happened to come see us about Monday? The idea is to persuade voters that Democrats believe in God and guns just like Republicans do. If acquiescence in the Schiavo case was a political strategy, it was a mistake. Polls consistently show that people don’t want Congress interfering with end-of-life medical decisions. Smart people take care to make their wishes known, with “living wills” and durable powers of attorney. Even these can be problematic. My father’s painful last days prompted my mother to leaflet family and doctors with her “advanced directives.” Yet, when an embolism brought her time near the end, her nursing home couldn’t find the document. Nurses were prepared to hook her up to a machine until I rushed in with a power of attorney. No, it was not easy. But I know when she died, her hand holding mine, that she wanted no more medical intervention. Terri Schiavo’s parents would want her life prolonged even had she left written instructions. They don’t believe the extensive evidence that she’s at the point provided by law for her husband to decide. You cannot fault Schiavo’s parents for this. But you can fault those in Congress who responded to their appeal on purely emotional or, worse, partisan grounds. The parents had no more legal standing to argue for further court hearings than the anti-abortion crusaders who turned up in Florida to harass Schiavo’s husband. Congress has effectively reopened the right-to-die issue. In a perverse political sense, it would be wonderful politically if the strict “pro-life” side would prevail. This faction would prohibit all decisions to end life, instructions or no instructions. Life would be required to go on until it reached its “natural,” dreadful end. This won’t happen because it would outrage most Americans. It also won’t happen because it would be too expensive for “pro-life” Republicans to swallow. As Texas governor, George W. Bush backed legislation that allowed hospitals to disconnect life supports of terminally ill patients who couldn’t pay the bill, even if families objected. Vic Snyder said he was persuaded to vote aye partly by the language of the law that said it would be a special case. Also, he said, “I came down on the side of letting her parents have another opportunity to make their case.” For the public record: If I’m in a vegetative state and someone pleads to Tom DeLay to prevent my “murder,” as some overheated partisans have put it this week, thanks but no thanks. Pull the damn plug.
Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016
  • Double-talk

    A couple of instances of doublespeak cropped up in Little Rock over the weekend.
    • Jun 29, 2017

Most Shared

Latest in Max Brantley

  • In black and white

    The men and women who patrol Little Rock in black and white vehicles tell a story in black and white.
    • Dec 7, 2017
  • Man's world

    The news of high-profile men outed for sexual harassment and worse shows no sign of abating soon.
    • Nov 30, 2017
  • The Clintons

    I wasn't particularly excited about the 25th anniversary celebration of Bill Clinton's election. Life goes on.
    • Nov 23, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31  

Most Viewed

  • Gratitude

    Now, more than ever, I find myself thankful for those who resist. Those who remind us of our higher common values. The fact-checkers and truth-tellers. Those who build bridges in communities instead of walls to segregate. The ones who stand up and speak out against injustice.
  • A difference

    How low can a columnist go? On evidence, nowhere near as low as the president of the United States. I'd intended to highlight certain ironies in the career of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). The self-anointed moral arbiter of the Senate began her career as a tobacco company lawyer — that is, somebody ill-suited to demand absolute purity of anybody, much less Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).
  • Money talks

    Democratic candidates face a dilemma in Arkansas. To take on the GOP members who are firmly entrenched in the state Legislature and Congress, they will need lots of money and lots of votes. The easiest way to get more votes is to spend more money. Obscene amounts of money. And thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and President Trump's judicial appointments, this will be our reality for a long time. The six Republicans who make up our congressional delegation have stopped pretending to care about their constituents. They vote in line with the interests of big corporations and lobbyists. They know what side their bread is buttered on.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: A difference

    • History is likely to move with light speed in concluding that in late 2017 society…

    • on December 14, 2017
  • Re: A difference

    • Gillibrand is a tough chick, and she knows she is a political whore, like 95%…

    • on December 14, 2017
  • Re: Cats and dogs

    • I miss my wolves. It has been over five years since the last of my…

    • on December 12, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation