22 March, 2005

A Letter from L. M.

I received this letter from my dear friend LM. Her daughter goes to school with my son. I think hers is a voice of reason amidst those who would only sound for political gain. The italics are mine.

Terri’s Choice

Terri Schiavo’s case is a tragic family saga turned
into a shameless political debacle. I, unlike
Congress, the courts and the Bush administration, do
not pretend to know all that is involved in her case.
In my own futile stand, I choose not to read all “the
facts”. No amount of arguments from the right-to-life
activists nor the right-to-die proponents will
persuade me to believe there is one right solution.
The only one who could make the right choice for
Terri, is Terri.

The one fact I do know is Terri is mentally impaired
and cannot vocalize her preference. No question her
quality of life is nothing like it once was, but is
that reason enough to starve her to death? For some
the answer is yes, for others no. The problem is, we
do not know what Terri wants.

I have reluctantly followed this case because my
daughter lives in a comparable mental state. But
unlike Terri, she was born that way. She is now 5
years old and we still don’t know if and what she
understands. Like Terri, our daughter does
laugh, smile, and cry. Similarly she does not respond
to questions. She does not choose. She does not
communicate in the conventional manner. Is that a
life? Who is to say?

What I do know is that my husband and I have decided
that for our daughter, that is a life, if uniquely her
own life. It may be different from ours, but for her,
it is the only life she will have. We made a choice
as parents to do as much as we possibly can for our
daughter, until that privilege is revoked by powers
greater than our own government. We do not know what
life span she may have, but we are going to help her
make the most of what she does have. That is our
choice as parents and no court in the land can make us
do otherwise.

Yet.

This threat to revoke our parental choice makes us
deeply sympathetic to the Schiavo parents. On the
other hand, if I were in a similar vegetative state, I
would elect to have my tube removed. Again, that is
my choice. And I would depend on my husband to carry
it out. And this may have been Terri’s choice as
promulgated by her husband. Which makes me
sympathetic to him and his interpretation of her
preference. See? No easy answer.

Some may call me a hypocrite, but I suspect those who
profess there are absolute solutions to intensely
personal decisions about the sanctity and quality of
life are naïve.
There are no clear cut decisions as
this case shows, and as we have learned from our own
daughter’s experience. But a mandate seems to have
emerged from this tragedy. We as a country must not
debate and legislate on the right to life, either at
birth or death. Instead, we must go a step further
and work to preserve our choice to make decisions for
ourselves and respect the right of others to make
their own choices. For the sanctity of our ability
to choose is what makes us different from many
countries in this world. It is not what we choose so
much as it is the ability to make that choice.
So
let’s leave Terri’s family alone, move on, and work on
things we can solve. I hope she would agree.
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The opinions on this blog are my own, and in no way represent the many groups, foundations and communities with whom my name may be associated.