Weekend Madman

Friday-Sunday, April 15-17, 2005


The Last Word(s)


We could continue to have these discussions regarding Terri Schiavo for the nest few months, but I'm going to let these last few items finish the thought here on "Note From a Madman."

In regard to the ongoing discussion about Terri Schiavo, my ending thoughts are these:

Whereas I do not agree with the decision of her husband, Michael Schiavo, I agree that someone had to be given the right to her as her guardian. On that note, whether you agree or disagree with his decision, and I disagree, it was his to make. The argument that she was or wasn't in a PVS (persistent vegetative state) is an important one. It's too bad that there isn't some sort of standard set that would have definitively set a "standard of life." I don't know that there ever could be.

I am disheartened, however, that because Mrs. Schiavo came from wealth, and her parents were financially well-equipped to keep her alive indefinitely, that they would have been able to do so while a six month-old infant whose mother was unable to afford it, had her child's life wiped out at the discretion of strangers (Texas Doctors).

What would have happened to Mrs. Schiavo had her parents not had the means to support her financially? Would there have been this outcry had she been a poor woman from South Philly without health insurance? We already know what would have happened to her had she been a poor woman without the means placed in a Houston, Texas hospital.

I deeply appreciate the thoughts of everyone who contributed to the debate on "Note From a Madman." I am pleased to see that these people of conscience have their hearts and minds in the right places. There is no hypocrisy among you. You seem to be in favor of life in all regards: For keeping Terri Schiavo alive; against the death penalty; and against the war in Iraq. No one could argue with your sincerity.

On that same note, I can't argue with the other side either. They believe that Mrs. Schiavo was brain dead, thus believing that her life wasn't worth living and that the courts and most doctors made the right decision; they are also against the death penalty, mostly because they hate the uncertainty that surrounds it and believe that it truly is "cruel and unusual punishment"; and they hate the war in Iraq, not because it wasn't ordained, but because it simply isn't right or just, and they feel we were all "duped" by an administration with an "agenda."

-Noah Greenberg

I chose not to reproduce this whole article sent to me by Stephen Spiro. I did, however, place a link to it at the excerpts end.

Warning - Are You Being Targeted For Euthanasia?

In 1984, while working as charge nurse in the intensive care unit, a 20-year-old man asked me, "Can you give my mother enough morphine to let her sleep away?" I was horrified. "I can not kill your mother," I responded. That was only the beginning. Recently, an 80-year-old was admitted to the emergency room and the physician said, "LET'S DEHYDRATE HER"; one more patient was sentenced to die in hospice with NO TERMINAL DIAGNOSIS and once again, THE LIVING WILL determined the death of a 70-year-old man regardless of how he pleaded to live. I can no longer remain silent.

Your life may be in danger if you are admitted to a hospital, especially if you are over 65 or have a chronic illness or a disability. The elderly are frequently dying three days after being admitted to the hospital. Some attribute it to "old age syndrome" while others admit that overdosing is all too common. Euthanasia is not legal but it is being practiced.
-Mary Therese Helmueller, R.N., 3-30-5
To read the whole article, please proceed to:

The Doctor Answers

No question about it. Speaking as a physician for 25 years including practicing in Oregon, I know first hand that end of life care is being mismanaged. Many patients are supported inappropriately by extraordinary means while others , like Schiavo, who are not brain dead or in Persistent Vegetative State, have death hastened with pseudo-euthanasia by excessive narcotic dosing and / or starvation. Few would argue about discontinuation of life support for the brain dead or in PVS. Tragically, Sciavo was neither. There is, unfortunately, a powerful political movement pushing a death agenda under the guise of death with dignity. It is particularly strong here in Oregon, especially in Portland. It is, along with legalization of drugs and gay marriage, the centerpiece of west coast liberalism. The Netherlands is often held out as the ideal society in this regard. The "culture of life" is slipping away out here....

Roland James replies to the Doctor

Perhaps you have been one of Terri Schiavo's doctors?
I hope you aren't a doctor like Bill Frist who can diagnose thousands of miles away from a video--(send him a video of that small mold on my check and he can tell whether it is cancerous?) A couple of years ago Frist led effort to provide liability protection for pharmaceutical companies who have included mercury in child vaccines--which is much more an indication of his "concern about life"--as is George Bush's conducting pre-emptive war, cutting programs for poor children, mocking Karla Faye Tucker,....

I'm also not a neuro-scientist, but I doubt that the autopsy will indicate any more brain activity than the years old scan of Terri Schiavo's brain recently shown on TV. According to neuro-scientists that have studied the scans and observed closely, Terri hasn't had cerebral cortex activity for years: the "personality" of Terri has been dead for years; she didn't see or hear-- and didn't remember seeing or hearing. Awake did not equal aware for Terri; reflex actions and sounds did not mean that Terri had awareness. We will soon see if the autopsy confirms this.

I haven't met anyone who would want to "live" after brain dies, especially if one becomes a public sideshow. Can you imagine Pope John Paul like this for 15 years after his brain had "died"?

"Every year more than 10 million children worldwide die from preventable diseases--Every Child Matters" is the Parade Magazine cover story last Sunday, 4/3/05, by Tracy Kidder, who is also author of Mountains Beyond Mountains, which explores the life of Dr. Paul Farmer in Haiti. One example of children dying world wide: In the 80s, the U.S. caused the replacement of adaptable, low-cost Creole pigs in Haiti with high-cost pigs from Iowa, ... leading to the deaths of thousands of Haitian children.

Yet there has been this focus on Terri Schiavo.

More troubling is how the American legal system goes after those who help end the lives of loved ones who are suffering greatly, are terminal, and who want to die. See for example, "The battle to die with dignity: Surprise Az man's death puts spotlight on bureaucratic mess, confusing law," 3/24/02 Az Rep, p. A1 by Joseph Reaves." John Peter Pfeifer, 44, "was racked by an incurable illness, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better know as Lou Gehrig's disease, and had withered to 85 pounds. His right arm was the sole limb he could still move. Pfeifer wanted to die badly and made out a living will that "life-sustaining procedures be withheld or withdrawn" and that he be "permitted to die naturally." But after his wife and son shut off his respirator, they were put through a 14 month legal trauma before prosecutor decided not to prosecute.

Though his concern about war, the death penalty, and "culture of death" was welcome, Pope John Paul's misplaced morality re the abortion of a fetus with no brain or not allowing condoms when one of the couple has AIDs was/is horrific.

"Luxury is more ruthless than war." Juvenal, 1st century Roman poet

Pope John Paul became anti-war, including the war in Iraq, but I will always remember him lecturing Oscar Romero about a month before Romero's assassination that even non-violent liberation theology wasn't a part of Catholic teaching, at least in Central America. Ironically, Romero was assassinated 25 years ago (March 24, 1980) by Salvadoran death squads
connected to the richest 14 families in El Savador, who admired the Nazis and who eventually became the Arena Party, which has received support from the U.S. and is still in power today--keeping a small percentage of Salvadorans in luxury and most Salvadorans in extreme poverty.

Now there is a media (even NPR) canard going around that liberation theology was violent, rather than an attempt to align the church with Biblical teachings and with the interests of the poor instead of the rich. The Pope's failure to support liberation theology in the third world was a huge failure and confirmed with many that the Catholic church would support oppressors while paying mere lip service to the poor and oppressed.

In the U.S.: "It's a suite life for some children, As home sizes grow, some kids are luxuriating in their very own wings." Andree Brooks April NY Times

The people of the Netherlands seemed to have learned that sometimes the more you push, the poorer the results--
"Abstinence-only education isn't about abstinence but about refusing to teach contraception.... Americans girls are ...more than seven times as likely as Dutch girls to have an abortion."

"I have begun to lose patience with "compassion," be it the conservative version that sees poverty as a moral disease to be cured with a benevolent dose of...rectitude, or the liberal version that views poverty as an exotic culture to be scrutinized through the kindly lens of tolerance. Poverty is not a culture to be understood; it is a condition to be eradicated....

"The solution of the right, which now masquerades in the costume of "values," is to locate a domain of bogus moral absolutes at the gray zones of moral decision--e.g., those having to do with prenatal life, terminal illness, matrimonial law...--while pursuing a foreign policy based on preemptive violence and a domestic policy based on theft ([paying low wages] or whatever is the...term for the disinheritance of an entire country unto the third and fourth generations).

"The current liberal solution is slightly more subtle...: a multicultural caste [or class] system....

"Religion can provide some useful insights, if only to debunk a few of the notions that are being foisted upon us in the name of religion. The Christian right preaches an extremely selective version of its own creed, long on Leviticus and short on Luke, with scant regard for the Prophets and no end of veneration for the profits.Its message goes largely unchallenged, partly through general ignorance of biblical tradition and partly because liberal believers and nonbelievers alike wish to maintain a respectable distance from the rhetoric of fundamentalism. This amounts to a regrettable abandonment of tactics. One of Saul Alinsky's 'Rules for Radicals' was 'Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules'--a tough act to pull off in one doesn't even know the rule book.

'"Compassionate conservatism" is now the ascendant....Like other forms of demagoguery, it is based on a partial truth: the idea that individuals and civic groups can meet the needs that no government can...How can you practice the Golden rule...without wishing your neighbor a standard of living on par with your own, a standard that can be achieved only through [government], including... progressive taxation."
-From "Left, Right & Wrong--What's missing from the debate over values in America" by Garret Keizer March/April 2005 Mother Jones

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-Noah Greenberg